Telkom Mobile has more than 1,500 active Wi-Fi hotspots out of the 4,000 sites it has acquired nationally, managing executive of Telkom Mobile, Amith Maharaj said at a media event on Thursday (29 August 2013).
According to Telkom Mobile, this makes theirs the largest Wi-Fi network in South Africa.
This followed an earlier announcement that Telkom Mobile would be offering 60 minutes of free, unlimited Wi-Fi every day to all consumers from 8 August to 15 December 2013.
In a press release issued during the event, Telkom Mobile said that the hotspots can be found in a number of venues around the country, from large chains to smaller “mom and pop” outlets.
These include: Primi Piatti, King Pie, McDonald’s, Hungry Lion, Wimpy, Steers, Chesanyama, and Ocean Basket.
Asked why there appears to be such a large lag between acquiring sites (4,000) and commissioning them (1,500), Maharaj said its a difficult road.
“To put up a site, firstly there has to be backhaul,” Maharaj said. This means ADSL or fibre, he explained.
Then to get the service activated you have to co-ordinate with the owner for a suitable time to install the lines and wireless equipment.
Maharaj said the challenge is that restaurants are always busy and having ladders standing around is a difficult thing for them.
“The other complication is getting the fibre to some of these places as well,” Maharaj said.
However, once it is installed, Maharaj said they operate a sophisticated network that’s monitored end-to-end. This means they know when a Wi-Fi access point goes down even without it being reported.
Using Telkom Mobile’s Wi-Fi
To use Telkom Mobile’s free Wi-Fi, users SMS the word “free” along with their email address to 32707. This SMS costs R1. You will then receive a reply with an access code and a PIN number.
According to Telkom Mobile, only one Wi-Fi voucher PIN code shall be provided to the requesting MSISDN (cellphone number) per day.
In an FAQ issued by Telkom Mobile, the operator explained that users are allocated 60 minutes of consecutive access and that the free hour cannot be broken into shorter periods.
Acceptable use policy
The FAQ also warns that users can be suspended for abusing the free Wi-Fi.
Questioned about this, Maharaj said that they don’t foresee that they will have congestion issues in the immediate future, implying that they do not foresee having to invoke their fair use policy.
Maharaj said that they have deployed high capacity access points and use fibre backhaul at some of the sites.
However, they have disallowed adult content on the Wi-Fi network, he added.
“We prevent adult content from being accessed as far as possible,” Maharaj said.
“We want to lead in data”
“From a data perspective we have the whole gambit now,” Maharaj said, pointing out that in addition to a conventional mobile data network they also have an LTE-based fixed wireless network and now an extensive Wi-Fi network.
“So it’s a case of driving sales now and getting uptake,” he added. “We want to lead in data.”