I was at the Cisco Mobility Summit in South Africa recently to discuss the local relevance of the findings of our Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) survey of mobile phone users. This unique research has a particular focus on consumers’ use of—and perspectives on—Wi-Fi and mobility. If you haven’t read about the findings in my “Wi-Fi Goes Public” and “A New Type of Mobility” blogs, the key sentiment is that people are starting to expect ubiquitous, always-on wireless access for all of their mobile devices.
The Wi-Fi market in South Africa is still emerging, with limited public hotspots provided by smaller companies. Given the tremendous mobile-data demand projected for South Africa, most of the local service providers are very interested in rolling out Wi-Fi, with many already conducting trials or developing strategies and implementation plans. With the South African public becoming used to accessing public Wi-Fi from hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, and the like, traditional mobile providers are realizing that they can recapture relationships with customers who are now using different companies for alternative mobile access.
In fact, service providers and mobile operators in the country agree with our findings and are seeing similar trends in South Africa, where more people are using nomadic devices such as tablets and eReaders that almost exclusively connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi. Cisco IBSG predicts that in many developed countries, not only will “Wi-Fi-enabled nomadic” be the fastest-growing device category, but that, on average, smartphones will use Wi-Fi 50 percent of the time to connect to the Internet.
We predict that there will be a “land grab” by service providers and mobile operators in South Africa to acquire key strategic locations for public hotspots. There are already numerous opportunities for service providers to drive real value from Wi-Fi in terms of managed services, customer retention, and new monetization models.
Given the huge variations in demographics and usage in South Africa compared to many other countries, Wi-Fi strategy and evolution will vary significantly throughout the country. Service providers and operators will therefore need to have the appropriate plans and infrastructure in place to meet growing customer demand for reliable and fast mobile connectivity.