The Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the local broadband industry, having announced a 25% increase in its membership for the year ended.
“The increase in our membership to 164 dynamic wireless operators demonstrates that we are a growing force in South Africa’s broadband industry,” says Christopher Geerdts, WAPA’s outgoing chairman. “However, in going forward, members will definitely need more quality spectrum to be able to provide continuously affordable and quality broadband.”
WAPA is a non-profit body acting as a collective voice for independent wireless operators in South Africa and their primary objective is to promote the rapidly growing wireless access services market.
“Our community of small to medium sized operators and service providers has strong empowerment credentials and is making a difference in the country’s telecommunications industry, especially when it comes to rural rollout initiatives,” says Geerdts.
In the last year, WAPA’s members have once again connected dozens of schools and clinics in addition to complementing the efforts of the large operators.
According to Geerdts, one of WAPA’s highlights for the year was the establishment of a national joint venture with a large fixed line provider to enhance their service offering with last mile access solutions provided by the WAPA members.
Another highlight for 2013 was the success of the Cape Town TV White Spaces trial. For two years now, WAPA has been involved in a joint initiative with Google and other partners to demonstrate that broadband can be offered over TV white spaces spectrum without interfering with licensed spectrum holders.
“Based on the successful outcomes of this trial, which exceeded the expectations of participants, we are strongly promoting the introduction of a new managed spectrum paradigm which will expedite delivery of broadband access across the country,” says Geerdts.
During the past year WAPA has also had several engagements with government departments (including ICASA, the Department of Communications and the Parliamentary Committee on Communications) on key issues such as spectral reform. In the next year WAPA will focus their discussions on addressing the challenge of radio interference.
Other achievements for the year include:
* Delivering free online training programmes to members, focusing on regulatory compliance. This has enabled members, unable to leave their operations, to get up to date on licensing requirements.
* Development of a best practices document for high site management. It will form the basis of a lobbying process to address issues members are facing, which includes for example engaging with high site owners to create awareness of regulatory requirements.
* A formal review of WAPA’s operational structure. The industry body has decided to outsource their day-to-day operations in order to ensure continuity and good governance, thereby allowing the executive committee to focus on high level lobbying and strategy.
“The relevance of the wireless industry is now beginning to be understood and WAPA members have a rapidly growing role to play in shaping broadband in South Africa. There has been a tremendous growth in the telecommunication industry and it is therefore crucial that WAPA supports their members with the issues they are facing, such as spectrum scarcity, radio interference and illegal operators,” Geerdts says.