This year's East Africa Com conference puts a magnifying glass on how the telecommunication industry has changed and of course, where it is headed with the latest innovations. Despite the various industry movements and changes, one topic seems to be a constant and that is the talk around access. There continues to be an ongoing need for access to reliable and effective networks and access to a sufficient broadband infrastructure

During the on going two day (21st -- 22nd May 2013) conference being held at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, we bumped into Ruckus Wireless a company that has been involved in East Africa through Comstek, their local distributor for 3 years. Michael Fletcher, Sales Director for Sub -- Saharan Africa, Ruckus Wireless says the most cost effective way to get data to customers is through Wi-Fi. He describes 3G, 4G and LTE as an expensive affair to deploy.

On a one on one interview during a coffee break at the conference, Fletcher explains unlike 3G and 4G deployments that require GSM spectrum from the regulator, site buildings among other things, Wi-Fi has less complication.

"In an event like this we need to lay access points down and find ways of back-hauling them, especially since we have fiber in Nairobi and Mombasa", says Fletcher.  Going back to statistics, Arstechnica points out that by the end of 2012, global data traffic on mobile networks hit nearly 1,300 petabytes per month and by 2014, the average connection is expected to see 7GB per month. Therefore the need for cost effective data transfer is eminent especially in growing markets.

One of the benefits of carriers using Wi-Fi as an alternative means of data access is that they can own a relationship with the customer rather than the device because the device is locked to a simcard. With Wi-Fi, a login key allows connection of multiple devices, which as a carrier, you want, customers to spend money on by providing better access.

From a corporate perspective, Perhaps a different outlook to this is without Wi-Fi, BYOD is a non-starter considering all the devices now that have no means of access, apart from Wi-Fi.

So encouraging BYOD and not providing Wi-Fi is counterproductive. When it comes to BYOD we have noticed that very few companies really want to implement every bell and whistle because they don't have the time, the right skilled staff, the budget and sometimes just don't see the need. More important however, organizations already have the right network components to address their BYOD basics without having to purchase more network equipment

Smart Wi-Fi

In Kenya, data demand for East Africa has doubled between 2012 -- 2013 and this will continue as applications become more and more intensive. As the demand increases networks will be under pressure to provide data access and as alluded, it wont be easy for GSM. "Consumer demand for data will drive much need from the carriers", says Fetcher.

Fetcher further explains the perception that Wi-Fi is just the same, that consumers can buy conventional reference designed retail product and use them. Well, in un-regulated areas like hotels, it might be very difficult to control what other people are doing; this is where the idea of smart Wi-Fi comes. Smart Wi-Fi has the ability to work in an environment where there is a lot of interference; it adapts in real time to such cases.

It is designed to extend the range and reliability of wireless signals. These technologies eliminate much of the cost and complexity of conventional wireless LAN (WLAN) deployments.

Off loading 3G capacity

The growth of mobile devices has put tremendous pressure on operators to offer faster data speeds to keep up with insatiable user demand for media-rich applications. Given the enormous installed-base of Wi-Fi chips within virtually every conceivable device on the planet, Wi-Fi represents one of the most expedient and cost-effective ways to increase both capacity and coverage of cellular networks with a tight focus on where traffic is heaviest.

Operators are now taking a much more strategic view of Wi-Fi, tapping a new generation of smarter technology that gives it the reliability and sophistication to become a full partner within mobile network infrastructure and on a much larger scale.

Ultimately for the operators, it's a far more cost effective way to provide access to customers and for customers; it's a better experience, especially if the 3G networks are congested and hopefully a more cost effective experience as well.

The growth of wireless technology in the market is undeniable as it continues to improve the way consumers, operators and enterprises operate. Not only does it allow for faster connectivity, but also it's cost effective and has proven to be the solution that works for the challenges of modern living and business. Wireless technology and Wi-Fi are here to stay and we can expect more innovative solutions as the industry grow.