Free community networks gain momentum

Strong Wireless User Group growth shows value of ‘No Cap & No Speed Limits’

October 12, 2009
Free community networks gain momentum

Wireless User Groups (WUGs) are gaining momentum in South Africa.  These community networks – which are essentially large wireless LANs – allow members to connect and enjoy numerous ‘online’ services free of charge.

These networks are used for a variety of services which are typically found on the Internet, like file sharing, online gaming, VoIP and messaging services.  The fact that there are no speed limitations (other than technical and physical constraints) and no usage limits mean that users typically enjoy higher speeds and more freedom than what their internet connections offer them.

The advantages of these ‘unrestricted’ networks are starting to attract a wide range of new WUG members across the country.  The fastest growing WUG in the country, the Pretoria Wireless User Group (PTAWUG) bears testament of the popularity of these networks.

Over the last two years the PTAWUG has grown from a small wireless network with only a few nodes to a city wide network with 600 connected nodes and 62 high sites.  The network stretches from Hammanskraal in the North to Midrand in the South.

“We are always looking to improve the links between geographically separated areas like Pretoria North and the rest and Centurion and Pretoria. Linking to Brits and Hartebeespoort is almost a reality once the last bit of money for the Elandsrand highsite in Brits is sponsored,” said Dawie Joubert (aka Protzkrog), co-founder of the PTAWUG.

PTAWUG is also set on adopting the latest technologies, and has a ‘draft n link’ between Irene and Lyttleton highsites, using Mikrotik R52N radios and 2 grid antennas on each side, with a UDP throughput above 100Mbits.

“We are having problems with the alignment and frequencies of the grids so we are going to do another draft N link from Irene to Hornbill highsite in Rooihuiskraal using R52N radios and Ubiquity dual feed dish antennas,” says Joubert.

The Cape Town Wireless User Group (CTWUG) is also showing strong growth, with 150 active connections, 10 high sites and a few transit nodes.  According to CTWUG member Johannes Le Roux the network is available in most northern suburbs including Durbanville, Brackenfell, Bellville, Parow and Goodwood.

The Johannesburg Wireless User Group (Jawug) is the granddaddy of free wireless community networks in the country, and current has around 50 high sites and 300 users.  “We are in the process of getting more accurate numbers, and are close to launching our new, and much improved wug.za.net website which is 97% completed,” says Jawug member ‘Ryder’

Other WUGs in South Africa include DWC (Durban), BFNWUG (Bloemfontein), PEWUG (Port Elizabeth) and PCN (Potchefstroom).  A full list of WUGs can be found online at:  http://www.wug.za.net/currentwugs.php

Wireless User Groups in SA – discussion

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