It’s a wireless future!

This year has definitely started off a with a bang and it looks like 2011 will be filled with opportunity for wireless access providers!

On the flip-side, part of the excitement of being in wireless is also that it is an ever-changing space. This means that new opportunities arise, but unfortunately also that old revenue streams can dry up.

If you were a large, monopoly or duopoly corporation, you could ask the state to help you protect these revenue streams (80c SMS, anyone?)

As small operators, our only choice is to provide better service, be more efficient and to work together to make sure that basic rules are followed and to lobby government and prove to them that our goals are very much in line with government’s broadband policies.

WAPA members are making a significant difference to broadband penetration in South Africa. The WAPA executive committee has formed various working groups to address the areas that are most important for realising WAPA’s goals and a lot of activity is happening in the fields of Spectrum lobbying, Marketing, Business Enablement, Regulatory assistance and more!

Spectrum Lobbying

For the past few years, WAPA has slowly but surely started to become a voice for better spectrum management. In SA we have prime sub-900 MHz spectrum that has less than 1% utilization.

In the past, WAPA, as part of the Open Spectrum Alliance, suggested a few models that could be used for spectrum management (e.g. light licensing), but something BIG happened in September last year: The FCC made between 400 – 800 MHz of TV White Spaces available as UNLICENSED spectrum! The FCC chairman himself calls this Super Wi-Fi!

WAPA immediately sprang into gear, as now we have a model that is being rolled out in the US (and soon in the UK) upon which we could base our future spectrum lobbying efforts.

WAPA Chairperson Henk Kleynhans wrote an Open Letter to ICASA and a commentary on TechCentral

Brainstorm Magazine picked up the Open Letter and wrote a commentary called “Now unleash our spectrum”

Getting our ducks in a row…

Of course, for WAPA to be respected at a national & international level, it is crucially important that our actions remain “above board” at all times. One of the means of achieving this is to only give membership status to companies that possess ECS & ECNS licences and comply with our Code of Conduct.

At the Digital Africa Innovation Summit in Uganda last year, the Telkom’s regulatory attorney “had words” with the WAPA chairperson because of WAPA members and their “illegal” tactics. He was somewhat taken aback when told that all our members are indeed licensed by ICASA. That fact alone changed him from being a wireless “enemy” into being a WAPA “friend”.

However, we cannot ask for self-regulation in a new, “Super Wi-Fi” unlicenced band if we cannot prove that we are able to make proper & legal use of the existing unlicenced bands.

This is not too difficult. In the 5.x GHz unlicenced bands, we now have EIRPs of 200W (point-to-point) and 4W (point-to-multipoint). Yet, there are still radios abound running multi-KM links using 2.4 GHz radios. It is nigh-impossible to do this and still adhere to the 100mW limit of the 2.4GHz band.

So if this is you, simply change your radios to 5.x GHz! Benefits:

1. It will work better
2. Your customers will be happier
3. You’ll have less interference
4. You’ll do less callouts
5. You won’t cause interference to legitimate users of 2.4 GHz.
6. You won’t risk being excluded from using sub-900MHz spectrum in the future because of prior illegal spectrum usage!

Getting Active!

To help grow WAPA as an organization, all members are invited to join one of our working groups. Contact us for more information on the working groups or to indicate your area of interest.

As with EXCO members, you will be helping the working groups in your personal capacity and be doing work that will benefit all WAPA members, including your own company.

With Henk Kleynhans chairing WAPA again this year along with a very strong & experienced team serving on the Executive Committee, we are working hard to achieve clearly defined goals…

It’s a wireless future!