Taxi ranks go hi-tech

2014-10-12 15:00

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Sibongile Nkabinde is sitting at the centre of Joburg’s busiest taxi rank surfing the net as she waits for her friend to arrive.

And, if chatting on Facebook using the rank’s newly available free Wi-Fi gets boring, Nkabinde could always download a South African movie or song – for between R2 and R10 a pop.

“We are not selling Wi-Fi, we are giving it away. People can now use the internet for free at Bree taxi rank,” says Pascal Schmitz, a film and television producer who has been working closely with software developers to start up the free Wi-Fi project.

“The aim of this is to provide free Wi-Fi in high-density areas like taxi ranks,” he says.

The network took developers a little more than two years to build and in some cases they had to develop “more robust equipment” to ensure they were able to provide high-speed internet to commuters.

“The Wi-Fi is completely free, unrestricted and no registration is required,” adds Schmitz’s business partner, Mayenzeke Baza.

The two entrepreneurs and other partners have taken advantage of the new technology and have created an online store that allows people to buy African movies, music and series.

“We were superexcited when this technology was developed,” says Schmitz. “People at taxi ranks spend between 10 and 45 minutes waiting in queues to get transport. So we have taken the opportunity to deliver quality content without them having to pay for the bandwidth.”

As commuters wait for a taxi, they can connect to the free Wi-Fi and log on to Schmitz and Baza’s online store, iBiskop, which offers access to “lokshin movies from Mzansi and the rest of Africa in the palm of your hand”, according to Schmitz.

He adds: “Cinema is a thing of luxury and time. And most people don’t have the time to spend at the cinema because they are always on the go. But now you can download and watch a movie as you wait for a taxi.”

Logging in and browsing through the content is free, but for content, you will need to purchase a R10 voucher.

These vouchers can be bought at Boxer and Glocell stores, as well as airtime vendors that use Smartcell machines. “Now when you buy airtime, you can also purchase credit to buy a movie,” says Baza.

One song will cost you R2, an episode from a local television show is R4 and a movie is R10.

Much-loved local productions like Dr Madluphuthu and the Shangaan Tree, Pure Monate Show and Ndiyindoda – I Am A Man are all available.

“We also have a list of music from genres such as reggae, hip-hop, kwaito and gospel,” adds Schmitz.

iBiskop had its soft launch this week and apart from a few loading delays when you log in, it’s all systems go.

Nkabinde took the site for a test drive as she waited, and loved it. “I think this is wonderful. R10 for a movie, which I keep forever, is a great deal,” she says.

Schmitz says: “Once you have downloaded the stuff, it’s yours to keep and share with friends. If you should lose it, you can log on to the site again and redownload for free – up to three times.”

Currently, the venture is only operating in Gauteng and the Western Cape at 17 ranks. Among these are Baragwanath, Germiston, Noord Street, Cape Town’s station deck, Khayelitsha and the Nyanga taxi rank.

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