WiFi spots are hotter than ever
Recent statistics from South Africa's leading WiFi hotspot providers show that more than ever, users are going mobile.
Figures for May from the WiFi joint venture between MWEB, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and Internet Solutions, show a usage increase of over 300% year-on-year.
Andre Joubert, General Manager of MWEB Business, said during the month of May, over four million minutes of WiFi Internet access were sold, a record figure, up from 87 thousand minutes per month in March 2005.
"Some of the factors contributing to the increase have been the introduction of data packages which were launched mid 2006 (in addition to the time packages already available), as well as the expansion of the network with between 15 and 20 new hotspots every month. The data packages range from 100MB to 2GB and are valid for one year. This means a customer can buy a once-off 2GB package and use it for up to a year."
Worldwide, the demand for wireless, high-speed Internet access is growing at exponential rates and South African adoption is starting to mirror this growth.
"The convenience, ease of use and the fact that it provides users with a high-speed Internet connection is what makes WiFi so appealing," says Joubert. "We have seen exponential growth in the usage of WiFi hotspots since we launched it, and coupled with the huge increase in the number of hotspots around the country (now standing at more than 250), it means more users than ever are able to access a WiFi service."
Usage statistics show international airports are still the most popular hotspot locations in terms of the number of users and minutes consumed. At OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, usage is up more than 50% year on year, while popular restaurant chain, The Mugg & Bean, has shown an increase of more than 150% in WiFi usage in the last year.
"WiFi has become part of business life in South Africa and is therefore ideal for people on the move," said Joubert. "It's changing the way we communicate and allowing the small business owner to run a business from an office, caf'e or airport lounge. Travelling business people are no longer bound by wires or geography, and provided they are in a WiFi zone, can gain access to a broadband Internet connection via any WiFi enabled device, such as a laptop or personal digital assistant (PDA).
Internet Solutions, together with its integration partners, Always-On, have recently also signed up two new international roaming partners, Boingo and Trustive, in addition to the current agreements with WeRoam, QuiConnect, Roampoint, BT Openzone and Ipass.
The JV partners offer several options for venue owners to easily enable their locations as WiFi hotspots. The most popular model has no risk to venue owners and provides them with a WiFi hotspot with no capital or monthly expense. This no-risk model, together with the massive marketing potential of the WiFi hotspots, provides venue owners with a real draw-card for customers.
"The future is very bright for WiFi," says Joubert. "We will soon be trialling VOIP from hotspots, with the aim of commercialising a voice service using WiFi. At some point, we aim to offer corporates the opportunity to use their VOIP contracts at hotspots as well, by linking to their VOIP service providers. Since VOIP is far cheaper than cellular, it makes sense, and as soon as dual mode phones become more widely available, it will be far easier to co-ordinate."
The JV partners have also been exploring a number of other commercial opportunities - such as advertising on the landing (opening) page at a hotspot. This would be particularly useful for banks, which could then enable customers to access Internet banking sites for free, via a simple click-through.
MWEB members currently receive 300 minutes free Wi-Fi access per month, which can be used at any MWEB-ready hotspot in South Africa. For a list of hotspots, simply visit the following link: http://hotspot.alwayson.co.za/