Tshwane connects millions with free Wi-Fi

Cape Town - The City of Tshwane is racing ahead with its public Wi-Fi service with the launch of the second phase of the project which will see an increase to over 200 internet hotspots.

"Today we launched Phase 2 of Tshwane Free Wi-Fi, over 200 new sites with capacity for 5 000 users per site (total capacity of over one million users), and announced the start of Phase 3 deployment incorporating capacity for over two million users," said Alan Knott-Craig jnr, the brains behind Project Isizwe which is responsible for deploying the network.

The City of Tshwane has a stated goal of blanketing the city with Wi-Fi coverage and has been successfully rolling out free Wi-Fi access for citizens.

"Tshwane has made history by becoming the first metro to roll out free Wi-Fi and indeed our announcement of the provision of this service was made before the City of New York's announcement - this is indeed a ground-breaking achievement for an African city," Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said in his State of the Capital City Address.

Wi-Fi is seen as the ideal standard to connect people to the internet as a lack of mobile broadband spectrum for mobile operators stymies their ability to provide high speed coverage.

Analogue television

Both Vodacom and MTN have invested in their networks by building capacity and deploying limited higher speed LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks, but despite the promises of former minister of communications Yunus Carrim, there appears to be little movement in policy to free up the critical 800MHz spectrum for mobile broadband.

The Draft National Broadband Policy warns that the delay in moving analogue television out of the broadband spectrum could seriously hamper South Africa's economic growth.

"Institutional challenges associated with spectrum allocation, together with delays in the migration of analogue terrestrial broadcasting to digital, have meant that service innovation, increased competition, potential job opportunities and tax revenues have not been realised," the document says.

Analogue TV broadcasters are hampering the move toward mobile broadband services. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Carrim had linked the growth of broadband with the development of all economic sectors in society as an engine for growth.

"The rollout of broadband is integrally linked to the growth of a 21st century economy and ultimately to addressing one of our country's pressing problems, the reduction of unemployment, especially amongst our youth," he said before he was removed in a Cabinet reshuffle.

According to data from Ericsson's Mobile Data Traffic Growth report for 2013 to 2019, the Sub-Saharan region's data appetite is huge and expected to grow at 65% to 2019 and beyond.


Put into perspective, mobile data in the region was at 37 000 terabytes (TB) per month in 2013, and that will jump to 76 000TB by the end of 2014, on its way to a mammoth 764 000TB by the end of 2019.

Knott-Craig said that primarily poor people are set to benefit from the rollout.

"Coverage is for public spaces in low-income communities only, and the Tshwane Free WiFi network is now officially South Africa’s largest public Free Wi-Fi project."

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