8 September 2015
Tshwane’s public wifi build programme is the largest of its kind in South Africa, new research by the firm BMI-T has confirmed.
BMI-T undertakes business-to-business commercial and industrial research. It tracks public and private sector wifi hotspots. In its study, BMI-T found that South African government deployments had been on an expansion trend over the last year to 18 months.
Christopher Geerdts, the associate telecommunications consultant at BMI-T told, said provincial government deployments in Western Cape were the next biggest after Tshwane.
“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.
However, BMI-T warned that free wifi risked being unsustainable.
“Someone ultimately has to pay for these services,” Geerdts argued. “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 (telecommunications companies) could also contribute, especially if there is some CSI (corporate social investment) capital to be gained from this.”
In Tshwane, Project Isizwe registered 720 000 unique wifi users, who are given a 250MB cap per day. The non-governmental organisation said that only 7% of users reached their cap. In Western Cape, public wifi is provided in Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha, where users have a 3GB cap.
However, Geerdts envisioned a model where wifi internet access was 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 wifi) coverage and payment methods improve,” he said.