'Free access' wireless network rolled out

A new, free wireless network is being rolled out in George, with plans to eventually cover the entire Garden Route area.  According to Imel Rautenbach, founding member of the new Garden Route Consortium planning to create an IT hub in George, the network uses the latest wireless technology which promises much faster speeds than traditional networks. 

The network is built using 802.11n equipment in the 5 GHz band.  It is currently being built by volunteers and relies on donations from the community for equipment. 

Rautenbach says that they are planning to use the network mainly as a research and development backbone, but will also utilize it for other services like VoIP, remote backups and making content available free of charge.

The network will also connect all the schools in the region, and give them access to resources like WikiPedia and MIT coursework.  “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT University) has made available to the consortium around 2000 online programs focusing on science and technology. These programs will be made available to local schools completely free of charge, once they have connected to the new network,” says Rautenbach.

“The network will be non-commercial and completely free to join. The network will not supply internet access but rather form a backbone for R&D projects and educational programs.  Through the wireless technology businesses can monitor activities through CCTV camera link-ups and WEBCAMs. Regional weather and water consumption monitoring can be done for instance through wireless technology,” says Rautenbach.

“The potential of the new network is limitless. With remote monitors farmers can even check-up on where their cattle are grazing, or see what vehicles are accessing their farms,” adds Rautenbach.

Part of bigger initiative

This wireless network forms part of the bigger Garden Route IT Consortium initiative where a group of companies in the region plans to launch an IT technology hub in George which will create jobs and train up new skills. 

Rautenbach is currently drumming up support for the initiative at provincial and national level.  The consortium aims to use the Western Cape Province’s business arm to market and develop the network in order to launch nationally and internationally.

“The idea behind pooling resources and skills is to keep all our software and hardware developmental work in the Garden Route. We already have around 30 businesses on our data base that have all the necessary skills and technology to form the nucleus,” says Rautenbach who was recently elected the Vice President of the George Chamber of Business.

According to Rautenbach it is likely that they will get buy-in from the Western Cape Government:  “Alan Winde, MEC for Finance and Tourism is very excited about the potential the consortium holds for the Garden Route region. He has committed to bringing a high powered delegation of provincial officials to the region to further explore this potential.”

”This initiative fits perfectly with our own plans for the growing of the Technology industry within province,” said Jo-Anne Johnston, Western Cape’s Chief Director of Trade and Industry Development.  She has committed her department’s full support for the initiative and is exploring ways of bringing other government departments on board.

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'Free access' wireless network rolled out