CC image courtesy of Eric Fischer on Flickr.
Speaking at the LTE Africa conference, in Cape Town today, Mohammad Patel, deputy chairperson at the Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA), said their 154 members, all licensed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), were ideally placed to fill in the gaps where the major network operators’ 3G and LTE services are unavailable.
Patel said: “Look at all the blank areas in 3G coverage between the networks. There are huge blank areas outside the metros and I can assure you there are people there. They are not deserts.”
He said he was not criticising the operators because many of those blank areas are not economically viable to roll 3G or LTE services out to because of low population density.
His and WAPA’s proposed solution however is to integrate their services with operators and take their LTE into their Wi-Fi networks and then pass it on to the consumer.
He said: “Most phones come with Wi-Fi built in and they can automatically switch to and from LTE or 3G and any Wi-Fi that is available.”
Patel argues this would dramatically reduce the infrastructure costs to the operator because the WISPs already have the majority of it in place and would improve consumer satisfaction by consistently offering a fast connection.
It could also take a considerable amount of traffic off their core network and reduce backhaul reliance.
Patel added that this was not a completely new idea and that Nokia Siemens and 3GPP were already conducting their own studies and coming up with standards respectively.
Billing to the consumer would continue to be done by the operator, but the WISP would then bill the operator for the amount of usage they had passed on the wireless network.
In a call to the networks, Patel added: “Let WAPA help you, to help us help you.”