Free, high speed community network shows sustainability

The biggest community wireless network in South Africa – the Pretoria Wireless User Group (PTAWUG) – is celebrating its fourth anniversary today. 

The network has grown from its humble beginnings of two Linksys wireless routers and two panels on a Lynnwood roof in mid-2007 to a wide area network stretching tens of kilometers from Hammanskraal in the north of Pretoria to Midrand in the south.

The PTAWUG has recently exceeded the 1,000 member mark and has 78 high sites, nine of which are served by 802.11n equipment. 

According to Dawie Joubert, one of the drivers of the PTAWUG initiative, the strong growth is thanks to the support of standard WUG members who share their knowledge and expertise freely and convince their friends and family of the benefits of joining this free network.

“These members give their time and knowledge free of charge and often help to acquire high sites and erect new wireless towers where needed,” explains Joubert.

The network makes various services available to its members including online gaming, file sharing, VoIP services, IRC and Internet Messaging, live video streaming, live radio streaming, a YouTube clone called WugTube, Weather updates, speedtest services and even a yellow pages directory.

The PTAWUG has also spawned a new podcast called Let’s Talk Geek hosted by well known Wuggers Stewart Allen, Tim Haak, Barry Reid and Jeff Hinds.

Pretoria is however not the only area with its own free community wireless network.  Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and East London all have their own networks.

Numerous new wireless community networks have also sprung up in places like George, Newcastle, Richards Bay and Kimberley, providing members with similar benefits (although on a smaller scale) to the more established WUGs.

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Free, high speed community network shows sustainability