The WiFi Forum of South Africa has already engaged with leading ICT industry associations including the FTTH Council Africa, Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA) and Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) on areas of common interest, and plans to up the ante considerably for the remainder of 2015.

That’s according to WFFSA chairperson Andile Ngcaba, who says the appointment at the WFFSA GM of Mashila Matlala to the Management Committee with responsibility for stakeholder engagement will help the Forum achieve its mandate of constructive co-operation with established ICT players in pursuit of open-access principles.

“South Africa has just over 0.03% of the globe’s almost 300-million Wi-Fi hotspots when the GDP value of our economy represents almost 0.6% of the world’s output,” says Ngcaba. “We need to deepen our engagement with the industry and sell the concept of the heterogeneous network.”  ‘Het nets’, he adds, consist of 3G and 4G mobile, small cell and Wi-Fi networks all interlaced to deliver a seamless mobile experience.

Ngcaba was speaking at the Forum’s mid-year General Meeting, which took place recently in Stellenbosch, Western Cape. He says that Matlala’s contribution to growing the Forum’s membership would be especially valuable as the Forum looks to deepen discussions with all local stakeholders that will result in the ideal of open access. She has a wealth of regulatory strategy experience as well as hands-on exposure in managing multi-disciplinary teams collaborating on complex, multifaceted ICT infrastructure projects.

“Operators restricting access to their networks is counter-productive and is holding South Africa back from achieving universal access and poverty-beating economic growth,” Ngcaba says. “While we have yet to fully define engagement and partnership models, we’re pleased to have had dialogue with WAPA and the FTTH Council Africa, in particular, where it was agreed to align strategies, avoid divergent views, use common working groups and conduct joint research.”

Also speaking at the Forum’s General Meeting was Executive Deputy Chairperson, Raj Wanniappa, who referred to the medium-term goal of achieving five million hotspots in South Africa, and the need for an effective regulatory regime to support the effective rollout of Wi-Fi hotspots.

“When you reach this level of hotspot penetration, Wi-Fi goes well beyond mere Internet connectivity and begins contributing to the achievement of government and society’s goals in the spheres of health, education, entrepreneurship, job creation and crime prevention,” says Wanniappa.