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ITWeb TV: WiFi 7 to drive SA’s data-intensive industries

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 21 Jun 2024
Nomso Kana, founder of Simsciex Technologies and nuclear scientist, talks to ITWeb journalist Sibahle Malinga about the huge leap in wireless connectivity that WiFi 7 will enable for South Africa’s Internet of things industries. #itwebtv #wifi7 #internetofthings Listen:

WiFi 7, the new standard of wireless connectivity, is expected to enable South African businesses to leap into wireless connectivity and thrust the country into a new internet of things era.

This was the word from nuclear scientist Nomso Kana, founder and CEO of broadband infrastructure provider Simsciex Technologies, speaking to ITWeb TV about SA’s connectivity landscape.

Kana is also a member of the Presidential Commission for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and holds leadership roles on various ICT company boards.

She pointed out that the use of WiFi plays a pivotal role in SA, driven by a growing appetite for data-intensive, low-latency applications, as organisations increasingly deploy emerging Web 3.0 technologies.

While some regions across the globe have jumped onto the WiFi 7 bandwagon, adoption of WiFi 6 in SA is still in its early stages, but is steadily gaining momentum, she stated.

While not yet widespread, there is a growing number of deployments across various sectors, specifically by the larger enterprises and SMEs, as many businesses adopt WiFi 6 to improve network performance and capacity in their operations, Kana noted.

In January, the WiFi Alliance officially introduced WiFi 7 standards − the next evolution of the WiFi network protocol that promises to be a substantial upgrade to its predecessor.

According to Kana, while the first iteration of devices enabled with WiFi 7 capability are widely available in SA, the country is taking a “wait and see” approach regarding deployments of the new generation of WiFi.

“As a country, we have not played in the WiFi 7 field yet. SA is still cruising nicely in WiFi 6, as the technology’s ability to handle high-density environments and support multiple devices simultaneously makes it ideal for modern workplaces. WiFi 6 equipment is still more expensive than older WiFi generations, making it less accessible for many individuals and small businesses.

Nomso Kana, founder and CEO of Simsciex Technologies.
Nomso Kana, founder and CEO of Simsciex Technologies.

“Fortunately, some WiFi 7 routers are already available in SA, and most recent smartphones support WiFi 6E, which operates on the additional frequency band essential for WiFi 7. However, people will need both a WiFi 7 router and compatible device to fully benefit from its advanced features.”

Countries across the globe that are ramping up WiFi 7 deployments include the US, UK, Australia, Japan and Mexico.

She pointed out that while WiFi 6E has a maximum speed of 9.6Gbps, WiFi 7 is expected to have a maximum speed of around 46Gbps – which is a 4X increase over WiFi 6E. It promises faster and a significantly higher number of connections, and is able to maintain reliable low-latency performance.

“The capabilities of WiFi 7 will take SA to where the World Economic Forum said five years ago that by 2024/2025, we will have about 50 billion devices connected.

“However, several things still need to happen before SA takes full advantage of these capabilities. Manufacturers need to make WiFi 7-compatible devices readily available in the South African market, and internet service providers (ISPs) and network operators need to invest in upgrading their infrastructure to support WiFi 7. This includes deploying new WiFi 7 routers and access points.”

Concentrated connectivity

Founded in 2014, Simsciex Technologies has expanded over the years into several provinces, including the North West, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State. The company has also grown its team of engineers, programmers, designers and marketers as a result of the growing demand for connectivity.

The company offers services such as bundled WiFi packages, broadband infrastructure, insights and strategic business development consultancy to the aviation, energy and ICT sectors.

Kana noted the company’s growth can be attributed to the acceleration of mobile use, and consumers’ growing demand for e-commerce, e-hailing, edtech, remote work and video-on-demand platforms.

Over the last few years, SA has seen a significant increase in fibre and wireless broadband deployments, with an oversaturation of deployments in cities and metros, she added. ISPs are now turning their focus towards the underserved communities – rural areas and the townships.

“SA has over 250 ISPs and there is a market battle on pricing and rapid deployment. This is often where some of the key challenges lie; for instance, there is lack of infrastructure and in some instances the backhaul is very far. That’s where fixed wireless broadband access comes into play and launches these areas into internet connectivity.

While broadband allows people to participate in the digital economy, the high costs of data and devices continue to make internet access unaffordable to a large portion of SA’s population, she concluded.