Wi-Fi hotspots rolling out for Western Cape

“Internet access is set to change in the Western Cape, with Wi-Fi access seeing exponential growth in the near future as the Western Cape Government will now offer affordable Wi-Fi hotspots access”.

(This article was assembled by the Editor from various sources. Feel free to add to the debate and to coreect any errors of omission or commission.)

Press release – The first 50 of the hotspots were launched by Premier Helen Zille, Minister Alan Winde and Neotel. Being driven by the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the project aims to activate one hotspot in each of the province’s 384 municipal wards by 2018.

Speaking at a media briefing in the city centre this morning, Minister Winde provided an overview of the scheduled roll-out for the rest of the financial year.


“A further 88 hotspots will go live between now and March next year, bringing the total number of hotspots we have launched since March to 150. The remaining 234 will be installed in the 2017/2018 financial year.”

The rollout in the West Coast District is scheduled for the next financial year. Each ward will receive a hotspot between April 2017 and March 2018 – see the table below.

  • West Coast District Municipality
  • Matzikama Local Municipality – 8
  • Cederberg Local Municipality – 6
  • Bergrivier Local Municipality – 7
  • Saldanha Bay Local Municipality – 14
  • Swartland Local Municipality – 12
  • SUB-TOTAL – 47

“Aha. I have often wondered why Darling has 2 wards, well it looks like there will be 2 Wi-Fi hotspots in Darling.” Ed exits stage right, swooning.

Perceived Benefits related to hotspots

  1. Increased access to job opportunities, information and transactional opportunities.
  2. Increased usage of hotspots for educational purposes.
  3. Improved safety at premises.
  4. Opportunity for improved service delivery.
  5. Decrease the digital divide.

Connecting (one hotspot) to your ward near you

They plan to connect in 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: 50 hotspots will be deployed during the 2015/16 financial year,
  • Phase 2: 100 hotspots will be deployed during the 2016/17 financial year, and
  • Phase 3: The remaining 234 hotspots will be deployed during the 2017/18 financial year.

So much for the ‘Politics of Fluff’.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

“The Wi-Fi hotspots will be mounted on the external walls of buildings, and will point out towards the nearby community. Depending on topography, the hotspots have a range of max. 200m.

That’s nice, but not much use for a Dorp of 10,000 people. Best place to put one of the Hotspots must surely be Vooruitsig Primary School where there are approximately 1,400 learners and the rest of us can muddle along as usual.

And so I asked – “Please can I have a Roll-out plan Mr. Minister ?”

And so to the Minister’s office (email) for some info. The personnel were very helpful and very ready with other email addresses for me to contact particularly that of a charming and very helpful gent at Meraka Institute (CSIR). In spite of my efforts I was unable to get a Hotspot Roll-Out plan for the Western Cape. With a roll-out plan we could plan our lives to take into account delivery dates. Mind you with such limited coverage it might be more fun to settle down with a good book and a bottle of the Cape’s finest.

But isn’t there a better mousetrap, I hear you cry ?

Well, not really but there are options –

  • Telkom land line plus ADSL and Wi-Fi modem – cheapish multi-purpose option. Landline phone and internet over the same cheap twisted pair copper wire that is often already installed. Downside is the appalling service level so if you don’t have a land line installed be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait…
  • Comtel – wireless available in many locations in West Coast. Upside, they are very helpful, I’ve used them in Langebaan. Downside – your antenna must be in line of sight of the transmitter. Most towns have centrally sited churches with very tall spires, could be an option to help Comtel with coverage while providing revenue to the church, just a thought.
  • Cell phone – ridiculously expensive, and the coverage is notable for its absence. How many times have you had to climb a tall gum tree and lean far out to the right to get any reception ?
  • Homing pigeons – no longer an option since the banks employed them all in their attempt to speed up the inter-bank payment clearing service. PROS – pigeons don’t join unions and they work over the weekend, CONS – pigeons leave calling cards and get distracted during the mating season.

Or maybe there is a better mousetrap.

TV channel White Spaces – future tech.

Very interesting, but it is still being investigated by, amongst others, the CSIR. If the project is feasible there will be the task of granting licenses to potential suppliers which no doubt will involve tenders and we all know where that leads.

Round about here I start to get out of my depth, I get stressed using the TV remote. But I’ll flounder on and if I make ghastly mistakes please feel free to add to the debate with a comment.

So what exactly is “TV White Space” and is it the rural solution for the future ?

TV White spaces are the unused channels in the broadcast TV spectrum. New radio and database technologies allow that spectrum to be used to transmit wireless Internet over distances up to ten kilometers. As a result, white spaces can be used to deploy broadband access and other mobile data technologies to widespread user communities.

Better Coverage than Wi-Fi

While a traditional Wi-Fi router has a relatively limited range, around 100 (maybe 200) meters under perfect conditions, and can be blocked by walls or other environmental barriers, TV White Space technology can cover an area of about 10 kilometers in diameter (100 times the coverage)! This breakthrough technology was nicknamed “Super Wi-Fi” because of its superior range and ability to penetrate obstacles such as trees, buildings and rough terrain.

TV channel white spaces


The Western Cape Digital Readiness Assessment report highlights that Digital news is available to a very wide audience via mobile phone in the Western Cape. According to the ‘Western Cape Digital Readiness Assessment 2015’ survey, 93.8% of individuals in the province access the internet via a mobile phone, compared to a national average of 70.8%. Moreover, the survey said that 38% of Western Cape households have a computer with ADSL internet access compared to the national average of 22%. The survey further indicated that the average Western Cape resident spends 20.1% of their monthly income on internet connectivity.

The Western Cape Government is investing over R2.89 billion in an attempt to connect every resident to the internet. Imagine if they spent the money to promote TV White Space technology rather than itty bitty connections with very limited coverage.

The Meraka Institute (CSIR) is driving the White Space research in South Africa.


*Carlson Wireless – http://www.carlsonwireless.com/tv-white-space/

Wikipedia  –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_spaces_(radio)

Idgconnect Kenyan internet using white space & sun – http://www.idgconnect.com/abstract/10392/mawingu-usd3-kenyan-internet-tv-white-space-sun

Digital Readiness Summary, Western Cape Govt. – https://www.westerncape.gov.za/assets/departments/economic-development-tourism/digital_readiness_summary_report.pdf

Public WiFi hotspots across Western Cape – https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/switching-public-wi-fi-hotspots-across-western-cape

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Ed also makes the coffee...

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