During the unveiling of the ANC’s election manifesto at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit recently, President Jacob Zuma revealed that the ANC plans to rapidly expand access to, and use of, ICT infrastructure in 2014.
According to his statement this will be achieved through the following initiatives by the ANC:
- We will invest in a comprehensive plan to expand broadband access throughout the country and substantially reduce the cost of communication.
- We aim to connect all schools, public health and other government facilities through broadband by 2020, and at least 90% of our communities should have substantial and superfast broadband capacity by 2020.
- Government will support and develop free-WiFi areas in cities, towns and rural areas.
- The local electronics sector and emerging entrepreneurs will be stimulated as part of our efforts to support the manufacturing industry.
This is a noble goal for the ANC to put forward, especially when compared with the latest statistics from Ookla’s broadband value index, which uses recent surveys from Speedtest.net to compare consumer broadband value around the world.
The survey shows that South Africa is still far away from its broadband targets. The cost of broadband is currently 12% of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, which is significantly higher than the 2,5 specified in the country’s broadband policy, which was unveiled by the Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim in December last year, and outlines a number of activities to improve broadband in South Africa.
The overall vision of the policy, in a similar vein to the ANCs manifesto, is to give every South African access to a broadband connection at a cost of 2.5% or less, of the average monthly income.
On an international level, 2014 is tipped to be the breakout year for WiFi globally, according to Wireless systems manufacturer Ruckus Wireless. Citing research conducted by Informa, they predict that global public WiFi hotspot numbers will reach 5.8 million by 2015 – from 1.3 million in 2011 – marking a 350% increase.
World Wide Worx MD, Arthur Goldstuck says many factors are coming together in 2014 that suggest this tread may also be seen in South Africa.
“We are seeing municipal initiatives in Cape Town and Pretoria, the ANC has included free WiFi in its election manifesto, WiFi offload is being taken seriously by mobile operators for the first time, and Internet service providers are looking to WiFi to differentiate their services.”
Ruckus predicts that 2014 will hail the “first true 3G offload to WiFi in Africa”, with many countries (Kenya and SA included) looking to this as a viable option – a notion that analysts have long advocated as a solution to SA’s increasing data demand.
Goldstuck says 3G offload to WiFi is not only a viable option, “but a necessary strategy as data demand intensifies”.
“Mobile data growth is a key factor here, where it is estimated that 1.9 billion Wi-Fi devices will hit the networks next year and global mobile data traffic is expected to reach 16.84 million terabytes by 2014,” says Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa.
“Ultimately, consumers are looking for access and Wi-Fi has proven to be the solution that works. As a result, it is a growing industry and finally the promises of what Wi-Fi can provide are coming to the fore as consumers, enterprises and operators alike become more aware of the possibilities that this spectrum provides.”