Multinational networking equipment manufacturer Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa sales director Riaan Graham says Wi-Fi and connectivity will play an integral role in infrastructure and socioeconomic development.
Connectivity broadly refers to the ability to access what is required – whether it be the national electricity grid or transport, information or social networks.
Graham states that Wi-Fi enables connectivity, therefore making it fundamental to infrastructure development, such as Wi-Fi-enabled devices that can relay information through mobile applications, subsequently enabling residents to report potholes and other infrastructural defects.
Infrastructure development has been highly prioritised on the African agenda, as countries have realised the need for a long-term plan that drives socioeconomic development by improving infrastructure and increasing Internet coverage, he explains.
People need better infrastructure – such as Internet cafes, connected libraries and electrified households to charge their mobile devices – to get connected, and more people will demand connectivity as better infrastructure is developed, Graham adds.
Further, Wi-Fi can improve rural settlements. “Fixed-line access is virtually unheard of in rural communities and people rely on their mobile phones for anything – from staying in touch with loved ones to doing business.
He notes that the establishment of Wi-Fi networks in rural communities would present residents with options that were previously unattainable, as Wi-Fi eliminates the high cost and limitations of other broadband solutions.
He states that pervasive Wi-Fi coverage will have massive implications for Africa. “Imagine the possibilities of ‘always on’ connectivity – which is not only positive from a consumer point of view but certainly also opens up enormous business potential . . .”
Graham says the company has noted a significant increase in demand for Wi-Fi solutions in the retail and property markets.
Several retail and property developers have realised that connectivity has become a requirement for developments – whether planned or under way – either because of consumer demand or the operational back-end value it provides for the overall chain, he adds.
Moreover, Graham says, contractors for new developments – particularly malls and other multiuse structures – have consciously incorporated Wi-Fi into the building plans of structures: “Project developers have adapted from completing projects and looking into connectivity thereafter to ensuring that their plans incorporate Wi-Fi from the onset.”
He explains that one of the biggest challenges is that many contractors have never had to consider Wi-Fi from the onset and are, therefore, not sure about the equipment required to ensure coverage and access on such a large scale.
Graham comments that this leads to contractors’ deciding against working with industry specialists, and buying carrier-grade products that are not compatible with the building design and aesthetics. These products cannot function adequately in terms of load density, signal strength or providing sufficient coverage, often resulting in project developers and the eventual occupants becoming frustrated with the Wi-Fi installation.
Graham says there are several ways to correct this. He notes that, for these types of installations, Ruckus, along with a partner or integrator, visits the site to survey the building and use the floor plans and the customer’s requirements to design a network. This ensures that Ruckus can decide on the number of access points required and provide blanket carrier-grade coverage throughout the building.
The company’s high-quality products further enhance its connectivity solutions. “Our unique BeamFlexoradaptive antenna technology consists of a smart, compact antenna array, with multiple elements, which can be combined in real time to form unique antenna patterns,” he says, explaining that the software employs machine learning.
Graham says the Beam-Flexsystem continually learns from the environment’s hostilities and interference sources, including disruptive radio-frequency conditions, numerous communicating devices, network performance issues and application flows. Thereafter, it selects the ideal antenna pattern for each communicating device, while actively avoiding interference and reducing noise to and from nearby networks and devices.
Therefore, the BeamFlex directly transmits energy towards the best path to the receiving device. “Unlike fixed-positioned directional antennas, BeamFlex dynamically configures its ‘beam’ on a per-station, per-packet basis to achieve omnidirectional coverage,” he adds.
Graham stresses that this ensures better performance and expanded coverage, stabilised wireless network performance and maximised power efficiency.
He concludes that Ruckus Wireless has a strong value-added reseller base to support projects and customer expectations across Africa, in addition to its wide product portfolio and expertise, which enables it to service almost any customer requirement.