Tshwane free WiFi for 1-million users

Project Isizwe, the non-profit that’s won bids to roll out free Wi-Fi services in Tshwane and Cape Town, is busy expanding the capacity of its Pretoria network to handle over 1-million people.

That’s the word from Alan Knott-Craig Jr, founder of Project Isizwe, who was speaking to Smart Monkey TV, Balancing Act’s web TV channel.

Explaining Project Isizwe’s business model, Knott-Craig said that municipalities pay them to roll out the infrastructure, which they do at no margin.

“We have a pure cost-recovery model and I think the future of data is that you’re not going to be making money selling bandwidth anymore, you’re going to make money on the stuff on top of that,” Knott-Craig said.

Asked what they charge people to use the bandwidth, Knott-Craig said that the man-in-the-street pays nothing, but the municipality effectively pays R1 per person, per Gigabyte (GB), per month.

“To put that in perspective… It’s an order of magnitude cheaper than what 3G is [in South Africa],” Knott-Craig said.

In a separate interview with CNBC Africa, Knott-Craig said that capacity for the million people on Tshwane’s Wi-Fi project cost the municipality R53-million.

This works out to under R1 per GB, per user, per month, Knott-Craig said.

“In the small scheme of things it’s a lot of money and in the big scheme of things it’s not a lot of money,” he said.

Knott-Craig also said that while the free Wi-Fi in Stellenbosch runs at average speeds of about 1 Megabit per second (Mbps), Tshwane’s gets speeds of 7Mbps.

“The product we’re pushing is not a mediocre product,” he said. “In fact, it’s probably better than the paid-for stuff.”

However, he said that Project Isizwe’s goal is not to target communities where people can afford to pay for Internet access.

“The priority is Kayamandi. The priority is Idas Valley, Soshanguve, Atteridgeville. Those are the areas where the need is the biggest and funnily enough those are the areas where we can provide the lowest-cost access,” Knott-Craig said.

Beyond South Africa

Project Isizwe is also looking at expanding its work beyond the borders of South Africa, Knott-Craig told Smart Monkey TV.

He said that they are going to Botswana to present to a small committee of the cabinet.

“The idea is that we shouldn’t stop until everybody in Sub-Saharan has got it, but for now our home base is the priority,” Knott-Craig said.

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Tshwane free WiFi for 1-million users