Non-profit community networks across the country are providing their members with free access to a multitude of network resources and services. Once the domain of only tech-savvy and experienced networking specialists, these networks are starting to attract members from across the IT spectrum.
Joining these networks requires an initial hardware investment of between R 1500 and R 2000, thereafter access to the network and all services hosted on the network is free. The network is built using standard 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz Wi-Fi equipment, and tech-savvy members of these communities help new members to set up their connection and show them the ropes free of charge.
These networks host a variety of resources, including files sharing services, networked gaming, chat programs and free VoIP calling services.
The Johannesburg Area Wireless User Group (JAWUG) and the Pretoria Wireless User Group (PTAWUG) recently joined forces to create the country’s larges community network. The network spans from the south of Johannesburg to the north of Pretoria, connecting over 350 members to the network.
The Pretoria Wireless User Group, which forms part of the Gauteng Community Network, currently has 187 members connected to its network. According to the user group it expects to have 200 members on its network by February 2009.
Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and many other cities and towns in South Africa are also growing their networks to cover large parts of these municipal areas.
The Durban Wireless Community (DWC) currently has about 200 members, 15 live nodes and 30 connected members on their network spanning from Bluff to Umbilo, Morningside, Town, Tollgate and Westville.
The Cape Town wireless User Group (CTWUG) is also showing strong growth with a long list of active members and high sites in the Western Cape area.
Hands-on skills building
Apart from the benefit to members of being on a free network, these wireless user groups have also become a training ground for many networking and IT professionals.
Experienced and knowledgeable members of these wireless user groups freely share information and expertise, and new members are encouraged to learn about networking and general IT services.
Many of these WUG members have already been head-hunted for the skills acquired through their involvement with these community networks, and with a growing membership one can expect more companies to start to source skills from these hands-on networking environments.
Users interested in joining one of the wireless networks are encouraged to visit http://www.wug.za.net/currentwugs.php and contact their local group.