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Why Wi-Fi is ideal for low income communities

  • By Alan Knott-Craig
  • November 18, 2013

Some people are asking is Wi-Fi the best technology for the masses in Africa to access the Internet. Here are 3 reasons:


1.             Network equipment


The disintegration of Motorola resulted in the world’s best radio engineers breaking off and starting their own companies, Ubiquiti being chief amongst these. The result, 5 years later, is a paradigm shift in affordability of reliable network equipment. Five years ago it would have cost $50,000 to purchase equipment for a basic Wi-Fi base station.


Today it costs less than $500.


The fall in prices means capital expenditure is massively reduced, and more importantly, the network can be upgraded regularly for new technological advances, rather than waiting five to ten years for initial capital expenditure to be amortised.


2.             Device penetration


The introduction of de facto Wi-Fi embedded in semi-smart and smart phones since 2007 means that almost every person on the continent, regardless of income group, has access to a Wi-Fi enabled handset or laptop.


This alleviates the need to purchase and distribute special modems, or worse, devices to citizens. All that is needed is a public access Wi-Fi network and people can take care of themselves.


3.            Wi-Fi helps the mobile operators


For mobile operators congestion on 3G networks is forcing mobile operators to find other ways of handling the explosive growth in data consumption, and Wi-Fi is becoming the off-load technology of choice.


In the analogy of broadband as water, 3G is the Valpre for the rich, whilst Wi-Fi is the tap water for the rest.


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