Tshwane tops SA Wi-Fi charts

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It is in the business interest of firms to offer customers free Wi-Fi. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
It is in the business interest of firms to offer customers free Wi-Fi. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Tshwane's public Wi-Fi build programme is the largest of its kind in South Africa, new research has confirmed.

According to data by research firm BMI-T, the City of Tshwane's free Wi-Fi build programm ranks as the largest in the country.

"Tshwane is the biggest in terms of users, footprint and access points. The deployments in the Western Cape for the provincial government are the next," Christopher Geerdts, associate Telecoms Consultant at BMI-T told Fin24.

The organisation tracks public and private sector Wi-Fi hotspots and found that SA government deployments were on an expansion trend over the last year to 18 months.

"In terms of government sponsored deployments there are currently around 1 800 active hotspots in South Africa with the bulk of these being concentrated in Project Isizwe's Tshwane deployment, and projects in the Western Cape," Geerdts said.

Affordable

However, BMI-T warned that free Wi-Fi risks being unsustainable.

"Someone ultimately has to pay for these services. Public projects can be all or part sponsored by national, provincial or local government and/or the private sector. Project Isizwe received donated bandwidth from Neotel. Other ISPs and telcos could also contribute, especially if there is some CSI (Corporate Social Investment) capital to be gained from this," Geerdts argued.

In Tshwane, Project Isizwe registered 720 000 unique Wi-Fi users who are granted a 250MB cap per day. The non-governmental organisation said that only 7% of users reach their cap.

In the Western Cape, public Wi-Fi is provided in Mitchell's Plain and Khayelitsha where users have a 3GB cap.

However, Geerdts envisioned a model where Wi-Fi internet access is affordable rather than free in the longer term.

"Overall we think that the country may be looking for an affordable model more than a free model. Customers are investing in smartphones and there is evidence they will pay for data if the pricing is improved and (for Wi-Fi) coverage and payment methods improve."


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