Suburb now part of cyber space

2016-04-12 06:00

Seawinds community members are counted in the number of people benefitting from the City of Cape Town’s free WiFi service which has reached a significant milestone last week.

The City’s free public wireless internet zones passed the 200 mark.

It now has 201 public WiFi zones clustered in 78 locations spread across the metro area. In the past week, more than 84 000 residents used the service.

Most of the WiFi zones installed so far are in suburbs and centres that have been neglected by commercial service providers, or where residents find commercial internet services too expensive.

These include Nyanga, Kraaifontein, Philippi and Khayelitsha, among others, with Seawinds on the list.

The WiFi service operates on top of the City’s fibre-optic network, which both reduces the direct costs and ensures a high quality of service.

Xanthea Limberg, the City’s Mayco member for corporate services and compliance, says their high-grade access points are connected to fibre-optic cables, which means that users enjoy access speeds of around 40 MB per second.

The City has partnered with Always On, a commercial Wi-Fi provider which manages the connection to each user device and pays for the bandwidth.

In exchange for the use of the City’s network, Always On gives 100 MB of data to every user every day.

The combination of a significant daily data allowance, fast access speeds and the wide distribution of WiFi zones, brings a truly useful service that makes a difference to the lives of many residents.

“We are able to do this at minimal cost to the ratepayer by using our own existing network infrastructure. We have achieved this with a capital budget of only R5m for each of the last two years, which is much better value for money than the hundreds of millions that some other municipalities have spent by fully outsourcing the service – at the end of which they do not own any of the infrastructure they have paid for,” says Limberg.

Since inception, over 460 000 residents have used the public WiFi service.

“These are unique users, each of whom may have connected to the service multiple times. Last week, 338 438 connections were made by 84 070 different users. Other municipalities sometimes claim that each connection represents a unique user, but that is very misleading,” added Limberg.

The City launched 10 new library based SmartCape WiFi zones in March, bringing the total to 24 out of 102 public libraries. Four more will be live by the end of April.

The number of public WiFi zones will reach 250 by the end of June 2016.

In March this year, 5.4 TB of data was downloaded via the public WiFi zones and the SmartCape service combined.

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