Bringing cheap (or free) internet to the masses is one of the defining problems facing South African technologists at the moment. While high speed broadband is effectively given away with breakfast cereal overseas, decent connectivity outside of urbanised areas is still rare here. One key pillar of the National Broadband Plan’s lofty ambition to have everyone connected by 2020 is to increase the number of WiFi hotspots across the country.

But how many would we need?

That question was answered during Wi-Fi Forum South Africa’s first conference in Johannesburg today, when organisation chairman Andile Ngcaba said that in order to fully connect the majority of South Africans to WiFi, the country will need around five million hotspots.

“We need around five million hotspots in SA, to have reasonable coverage of the country, and it is possible that it can be done,” he told the delegates.

But how on earth would South Africa be able to set up such a huge amount of hotspots? Ngcaba reckons the only way in which it can be done, is to have citizens equip their business with carrier-grade access points.

“The only way we can do this, is getting people to create hotspots around the country with carrier-grade WiFi, like the guy who has a shop on the corner.” He added that while the equipment today has a throughput of 300Mbps, the new technology being made available will be able to output around 1Gbps, which will help things a long rather nicely.

Ngcaba was cautious to attach a timeline for the creation of five million hotspots, but Zolani Matebese from the City of Johannesburg committed to creating over a 1 000 free WiFi hotspots of 300Mbps in the City by the end of next year – which will primarily focus on unserved areas.

As an aside to WiFi Forum members, if you’re looking at building five million hotspots, might we suggest looking at these as a bit of a cost saver?

[Image CC by 2.0/Nicolas Nova]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.