The municipal wireless broadband networks in Knysna and Tshwane in South Africa
In the South African town of Knysna, the network uses WiFi at over 200 hot spots in most business districts and various suburbs. The host spots use access points installed in municipal sites such as clinics, schools, and libraries, as well as broadband Internet customers spread across the area.
The network has been operational for eighteen months. At selected locations, the network allows free access to the Internet without a password. There are currently no limits on the access times, but a daily time limit of 45 minutes per day is to be introduced.
About 30 public VoIP phones are to be installed in informal settlements that will offer free VoIP connectivity between VoIP devices.
The municipality claims that there have been productivity gains because staff can work at home. Further uses planned for the system include the installation of closed circuit TV cameras for public security and urban planning purposes. The municipality expects to save 4 million ZAR (0.56 million USD) in charges by network operator during the five-year contract period.
The wireless installer has set up base stations and sells Internet access and VoIP services to the residents of the town.
Internet access is priced at 250 ZAR (35 USD) per month. The VoIP service offers 100 free local minutes per month and can be used on computers and on WiFi phones, which are fairly rare and expensive. The service provider publicises the service by having about 30 people carry bright red phones at public gatherings such as football games.
Obtaining interconnection was initially a problem. In fact, the fixed network operator was very hostile to the municipal network and even local Internet service providers were sceptical.
The municipal wireless broadband network in Tshwane is currently in a proof of concept deployment. It uses WiFi to cover various suburbs and a central district of Tshwane, which is effectively part of Pretoria. The last mile access is principally provided by standard 2.4 GHz WiFi connections to computers, though in one area there is intended to be Power Line Communications (PLC). The backhaul bandwidth is obtained using wireless (mainly WiFi) and fibre links.
Services running only on the municipal wireless broadband network, without connectivity to the Internet, will be effectively free of charge to users. They will include basic municipal, government and related services and potentially peer-to-peer forms of applications such as VoIP.
The network is intended to offer open access, so that any Internet service provider could become a customer and offer service on it to provide access to the Internet. However, in the proof of concept deployment the only available Internet service provider is the one responsible for deploying the network.
Internet access is priced at 180 ZAR (24 USD) per month, with a 1 GB usage limit, or 350 ZAR (49 USD) per month, with a 3 GB usage limit, and with data rates of 128kb/s.
Strategic Infrastructure Plan 2006 (Provincial Government of the Western Cape, South Africa, May 2006) chapter 4.3, http://www.capegateway.gov.za/other/2006/5/sipch4ict-_gate_rev3v3_4_5.pdf.
http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=291952&area=/insight/insight__economy__business/, http://www.mybroadband.co.za/nephp/?m=show&id=4335 and http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/AAPAM/UNPAN026903.pdf.