Meeting Broadband Demand – WAPA Census Results

May 30, 2012

WAPA has just released its latest census results. The results fill a valuable knowledge gap in the understanding of national broadband service provision and show strong growth in the sector, as WAPA members scramble to meet pent up demand for high-quality, cost-effective broadband in urban and rural areas.

“We are gratified by the high involvement of members in our organisation, reflected in the 76% response rate in the census. We are also encouraged by the crucial contribution our members are making to address the broadband deficit in South Africa”, says WAPA Chairperson Christopher Geerdts. Geerdts further states that the WAPA membership is growing 40% per annum, with overall customer numbers increasing at an even faster rate.

WAPA to date has 125 members, which, as the census indicates, provide wireless broadband to an estimated 80 000 customers. This represents a turnover of R160m, the employment of 1 000 people and the provisioning of over 6 000 public hotspots. “Since a single customer can be a household, a business, clinic or an institution, the number of end users served could well be in the millions”, explains , General Manager of WAPA. “Our members cover 550 schools (each with hundreds of pupils), as well as mines, health facilities, restaurants and Internet cafés”.

The census results underscore the considerable economic benefit that WAPA members are bringing to South Africa and the alignment thereof with government objectives for telecoms by:

– Introducing competition to Broadband provision
– Raising service quality and customer service
– Challenging high prices
– Driving innovation

The fact that WAPA members are geographically dispersed means that local economic stimulation, job creation and technical skills-sharing is extended to rural areas, where they are most needed. WAPA members’ hotspots provide affordable and convenient access in diverse locations. Thousands of tourists who pass through each year can access the Internet from airports, shopping malls and game parks. Students are given greater access to the Internet, which is their lifeline for effective study. Schools are connected, often as a free service, in both urban and rural areas. Service is given to communities previously ‘forgotten’ or which other, larger providers have ignored.

As the survey shows, more than 90% of this access is offered via ‘unlicensed’ wireless frequencies, and Geerdts believes that WAPA members could raise the bar even higher if given access to better quality spectrum – something which WAPA is actively lobbying the government to provide.

“WAPA members can be immensely proud of the enormous strides they are taking in their own right and as an industry”, says Geerdts. “The census results provide quality information to quantify the achievements of the members and the growth in this mode of wireless broadband provision. They show that we are on the cusp of a quiet but significant revolution. It’s a wireless future”.