SA businesses ignore WiFi at their peril

If a business has a waiting area designed for customers pending conclusion of a service, WiFi provides the perfect distraction, says Craig Medefindt, national sales manager at FastNet.

Johannesburg, 10 Apr 2014
Read time 3min 10sec

Globally, 45% of total GSM smart device traffic was offloaded onto terrestrial networks via WiFi in 2013, according to data from Cisco. In addition to this, Informa estimates that by 2015 there will be 5.8 million public hotspots worldwide, that's 350% growth since 2011. In light of the rapid growth in WiFi usage, it is imperative that South African service-orientated businesses look at incorporating WiFi as a service to its customers in order to remain competitive or gain the advantage.

This is according to Craig Medefindt, National Sales Manager at FastNet, who says: "WiFi is the current buzzword, internationally and locally." Trends indicate that WiFi connectivity for smart devices is becoming a 'given' in the hospitality industry. "It is na"ive to think that free WiFi should be limited to a specific sector because it is relevant to any service-orientated business. Hospitality has embraced the tech; however, banks, motor industry, large retail and even medical services are all entering the space of providing some element of free WiFi to their customers."

If a business has a waiting area designed for customers pending the conclusion of a service, then WiFi provides the perfect distraction, says Medefindt. "Adding to that, advantages of enticing customers; stay longer, spend more and being happier all while on your premises. It can even result in return visits and increase in brand loyalty."

The main reason for the growth in WiFi usage is related to the increasing adoption of WiFi-enabled devices - adoption of both tablets and smartphones now exceed laptops, says Medefindt. "These devices, while connected to your WiFi, can provide a new way to touch your consumers.

Offering a free to customer WiFi platform can provide customer landing pages, unique advertising and even run specific promotional campaigns, all while your customer is sitting in your business; what more could you ask for?

If you are going to stick your brand out there, it is imperative to use the services of a reputable provider with a proven track record in both installing and maintaining what will be your WiFi brand offering. Add to that, a good provider will help to ensure security of the access point and continuity of the service, he says.

Medefindt says one of the disadvantages experienced by businesses currently providing free WiFi is, of course, the misuse of the service. "People not in your premises, but within the WiFi footprint, connecting and making use of the service. So it is imperative to have some T&Cs and simple business rules too."

There are umpteen solutions for those businesses intending to offer free WiFi, says Medefindt. "Those with a good understanding of the technology could set up their own WiFi network. It is both time consuming and potentially risky. A paid-for service offers a hassle-free solution, passing greater benefit on to the business with fully branded WiFi landing page and SSID and increased brand exposure in the process. Of course, there is the option of a free service, such as the Telkom Mobile service, which is free, with the branding remaining that of the WiFi service provider.

"Offering free WiFi to consumers comes at a price, that is until the business offsets the costs with the benefits, things like branding, customer loyalty, even gathering data on customer experience can all be deemed valid reasons for a business to consider the move," concludes Medefindt.


FastNet is South Africa's leading wireless data communications service provider. With almost 20 years' experience pioneering point of sale (POS) communications in South Africa, FastNet provides the only Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant network that is a reliable, secure, end-to-end data communication solution for businesses of all sizes. The company specialises in POS, virtual private network, machine-to-machine communication and WiFi technology.

With its national footprint, FastNet is well positioned to deliver a superior service and 24/7 technical support across South Africa. FastNet is also a fully licensed, Electronic Communications Network Services (ECNS) and Electronic Communication Services (ECS) service provider with the advantage of extensive coverage provided by both wireless and fixed line networks.

FastNet is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Telkom SA.

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