Tshwane free Wi-Fi launches in 5 areas

2013-11-27 07:55
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The City of Tshwane on Tuesday launched the first phase of its public Wi-Fi offering as part of the plan to blanket the city in free wireless data access.

The Free Internet Zones that went live on Tuesday are TUT Soshanguve, UP Hatfield, Church Square, Tshwane North College and Mamelodi Community Centre.

According to Project Isizwe, the NGO tasked with the rollout, each zone will cater to around 5 000 users and cover 18 000m².

The project is part of the City of Tshwane's Vision 2055 programme meant to focus the metro on first class service delivery for residents by 2055, 100 years after the adoption of the Freedom Charter.

Internet access has been identified as an economic enabler and a study by the World Bank showed that for every 10% increase in mobile penetration, there is a corresponding 0.8% increase in gross domestic product (GDP).


"Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development - from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes," said World Bank vice president for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.

But public Wi-Fi programmes have critics who argue that security is often lacking and the systems do not often protect children from harmful content.

"While access for all is a commendable goal, there are security risks in extending free and low-cost Wi-Fi access in public places," Jonas Thulin a security consultant at Fortinet, told News24.

The project aims to bring connectivity to those who not had it before, countered project lead, Alan Knott-Craig jnr.

"If the web is like water, then today in South Africa there is no tap water to be found. Project Isizwe aims to bring tap water to those that can't afford the bottled stuff," he said.

The first phase includes some limitations designed to limit abuse.

Data will be limited to 250MB per device per day and harmful content, such as pornography and alcohol will be blocked on the network.

Broadband spectrum

In addition, Knott-Craig said there are systems in place to monitor abuse of the zones.

"There are a combination of automated tools and active user management on our Free Internet Zones (FIZs) to monitor abuse and ensure fair usage."

While the regulator has fumbled the awarding of broadband spectrum in SA, Wi-Fi has emerged as a bridging technology, despite the operators rolling out limited higher speed LTE (Long Term Evolution Networks).

While data cost is set to become a major driver of revenue for mobile operators, major centres in the country are seeing a rollout of Wi-Fi hotspots that aim to deliver internet connectivity at no cost to users.

"Mobile operators are doing an excellent job, but they'll never offer a free service. Just as with water and electricity, local governments will need to step in if they want basic access to the web for their residents that can't afford 3G or ADSL," said Knott-Craig.

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Read more on:    mobile  |  broadband

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