Stellenbosch’s free Wi-Fi network – an initiative between the Stellenbosch municipality, Mxit and the Stellenbosch University – is growing fast and is currently providing speeds of well above 10Mbps.
Earlier this year Stellenbosch mayor Conrad Sidego announced that the town is planning to build an extensive free Wi-Fi network, covering the full municipal area.
Stellenbosch councillor and head of the municipality’s finance portfolio, Pieter Venter, explained that the trial network went live in February.
The next phase involves extending the network to the greater Stellenbosch area over a six month period. This will extend the network as far as Franschhoek and Pniel.
Venter explained that the core Wi-Fi network is already in place, and the municipality is currently simply putting repeaters closer to residents to ‘fill in’ the network and boost coverage. These repeaters are installed on lamp poles and on suitable high sites.
The Stellenbosch free Wi-Fi network is gaining momentum, and many users have shown impressive speed test results using this network.
The speed test results posted online ranged between few a hundred kbps to close to 20Mbps. It is noteworthy that the results showed very fast upload speeds – also close to 20Mbps.
Image courtesy of BandwidthBlog
Venter said that the trial users are indeed experiencing great speeds because of the underutilized network without any limitations, but highlighted that these speeds will be capped at 1Mbps once the full network is in place.
Venter told MyBroadband that the network is enjoying good support, and that they have now started to grow the network on a weekly basis.
There are currently ten repeaters active in the centre of Stellenbosch (around the areas of Dorpstraat, Kerkstraat and Pleinstraat), and this number is growing by a few repeaters every week.
Venter said that they are planning to cover a large part of the Stellenbosch area by the end of June (including Cloetesville, Kayamandi and Idasvallei), and that their ultimate goal is to cover all neighborhoods in the Stellenbosch municipality by the end of the year.
The full network will have in the region of 1,000 Wi-Fi repeaters, which will come at a cost of around R1,000 per repeater. Venter said that many companies and individuals have joined the initiative and are sponsoring repeaters in their area.
Making it sustainable
Mxit is assisting the Stellenbosch free Wi-Fi project by supplying the network with unused bandwidth on their network.
Carinus Lemmer, who is the Stellenbosch free Wi-Fi project project leader, said that the speeds are as expected and that the network has experienced virtually no downtime since it was launched in February.
“The experience is as good as a free service should be, and compares perfectly well with the services at restaurants and coffees shops around town,” said Lemmer.
Lemmer said that they recently acquired Wi-Fi equipment which is used to provide access at festivals like Rabbidhole 2012 and the AfrikaBurn. After the AfrikaBurn event the equipment will be deployed in Church and Ryneveld Street and in Kayamandi.
“We are also wiring up some ‘shacks’ and other premises to carry our access points,” explained Lemmer.