Wi‐Fi technologies enable small‐scale, bottom‐up development of community networks in (rural) under‐serviced areas in developing countries. The purpose of this paper is to examine: the constraints and opportunities that small Wi‐Fi providers have faced to date in their endeavors to develop Wi‐Fi community networks in South Africa; and the extent to which the newly introduced Electronic Communications Act of 2006 might alleviate any of the constraints.
Through interviews and document analysis the paper analyzes regulations and license application procedures in South Africa, and exemplifies the impact of both through discussion of experiences of a municipal and small private Wi‐Fi provider.
While formal regulation prohibits community network deployment due to low power limits and restriction of the use of Wi‐Fi within private premises, informal regulatory constraints as a result of lack of clarity on licensing requirements as well as time‐consuming application processes further prevent small Wi‐Fi providers from entering the market. In order to further stimulate universal access strategies, regulators may find incentives to ease these constraints, particularly as innovations in wireless technologies will continue to increase bottom‐up development of ICT networks by small local entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs, without extensive expertise in law and regulation, will increase the burden and workload of regulators that, particularly in developing countries, frequently face under‐capacity.
This paper extends the debate about spectrum‐licensing barriers for Wi‐Fi community network development in developing countries by providing insight into not only formal but also informal regulatory constraints that impede Wi‐Fi community network provision.
van Gorp, A. and Morris, C. (2008), "Serving under‐serviced areas in South Africa: the potential for Wi‐Fi community network deployment and the role of regulation", info, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 65-78. https://doi.org/10.1108/14636690810850166Download as .RIS
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