Cheaper wireless services booming

Many ISPs have been setting up their own wireless infrastructure for years, providing connectivity services at a fraction of the standard cost

May 15, 2009
Cheaper wireless services booming

HUNDREDS of local service providers have been issued with licences that allow them to set up their own broadband infrastructure for the first time if they take up the option.

However, many service providers have been setting up their own wireless infrastructure for years, providing connectivity services at a fraction of the cost of those offered by bigger operators.

“The new licences legitimise what we have been doing for years and allow us to market our services openly,” says Eugene van der Merwe, CEO of Snowball Effect.

He says the company set up a wireless network five years ago in Cape Town covering about a 100km radius to provide internet connectivity services. Customers can connect to the internet at between 512 kilobits per second and two megabits per second (Mbps), or up to 4Mbps if they are close to the antenna.

The company focuses on central Cape Town and outlying areas where the fixed-line ADSL service does not reach.

He says a 1Mbps link with 1 gigabyte data download limit costs R200 a month.

Wireless access provider UniNet has formed private/public partnerships to provide smaller municipalities with wireless infrastructure to support internal communication and a broadband connectivity utility for the local community.

It provides a giant outdoor hotspot and subscribers in the area can have broadband voice and data services for R39 a month.

All calls to the municipality and emergency services are free.

“We have been doing this with Knysna municipality for four years and have recently signed an agreement with Bloemfontein municipality to do the same,” says CEO David Jarvis.

In Knysna the libraries have public terminals, and a certain amount of free broadband access is provided to visitors.

He says there is a huge opportunity for wireless access providers to do the same for municipalities in underserviced areas.

A recent survey by the Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) estimates there are more than 700 wireless access providers in SA providing services to about 60000 customers. On average they provide consumer services at 30% to 40% less than offered by incumbent operators and 60% to 70% less for business services.

Nonprofit community-based wireless networks are proliferating throughout SA, allowing users to communicate, play games, share data and speak to each other using Voice over IP (VoIP.)

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