Orange trials Cape Town Wi-Fi

2014-04-04 11:29
SA mobile operators are urging the government to move faster in the delivery of LTE spectrum. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

SA mobile operators are urging the government to move faster in the delivery of LTE spectrum. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - A new Wi-Fi service is being trialled in Cape Town with a view to rolling out a programme targeted primarily at tourists who visit South Africa.

Orange has partnered with African Eagle Tourism to provide free Wi-Fi services within their fleet of vehicles.

"It is important for tourists to have access to Wi-Fi services, allowing them to get in touch with family and friends, take care of business matters, research tourist attractions or connect to other online services," said Sèbastien Crozier, Orange Horizons CEO.

Access to internet services is particularly useful for travellers because it allows communication without incurring sometimes onerous roaming charges and limits the inconvenience of having install local SIM cards.

While Orange operates mobile networks in over 20 countries, including key markets in Africa like Kenya and Egypt. South Africa is on the company's horizon for service delivery for its international customers.

Limited Wi-Fi

"Wi-Fi is underdeveloped and underutilised in South Africa, whereas Europeans have come to rely on the technology to satiate their appetites for data. For tourists visiting South Africa it is hard to understand why there is so little access to Wi-Fi," said Crozier.

In many developed countries, mobile network operators as well as other entities provide free Wi-Fi in selected areas. These often do not require traditional log-in systems and are run based on economies of scale.

In SA, public Wi-Fi access is generally limited to specific areas in metros, though the City of Tshwane is in the process of rolling out an ambitious public Wi-Fi network through the Project Isizwe NGO.

In Cape Town, Wi-Fi is available in the Company Gardens and in the lower economic areas of Khayelitsha, Mitchell's Plain and Ocean View. Samsung also offers users of its mobile devices Wi-Fi through the AlwaysOn network of around 1 200 hotspots.

Crozier encouraged South African mobile operators to focus on customer needs with regard to data and consumption.

"In South Africa, there is a notion that data is overpriced, and consumers should avoid using too much; however, our understanding is that operators should support the growing use of data by providing relevant content as well as providing service packages aligned to the consumer's specific requirements."

Infrastructure

MTN announced recently that the company had invested significantly into its network and built out its LTE network to 761 sites.

Vodacom said that its investment into the network would be upscaled to R9bn as the growth in data demanded a more robust infrastructure.

"We're ramping up our capital investment from around R7bn in the last two years to around R9bn in the current financial year to handle the increased data demands and to allow us to continue to bring the cost to communicate down," Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman told News24.

Despite declines in the cost of data, it remains a challenge in terms of rolling out universal mobile broadband. Wi-Fi has emerged as a stopgap, particularly for Cape Town, said Crozier.

"Offering stable Wi-Fi services is a step in the right direction for the country, and the country's tourism capital is the best place to start."


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