Western Cape Free WiFi: can we expect more data, better caps?

Western Cape,WiFi

The Western Cape Free WiFi Project is arguably less impressive than the Tshwane Free WiFi Project from a bandwidth perspective, but it’s still a pretty solid achievement in terms of coverage.

Starting with 50 hotspots across the province, the access points have steadily spread out since the launch in March 2016, now hitting the 178 mark, the provincial government told Memeburn. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

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Could we expect the rolling over of unused data, for starters?

“Currently, because of the active nature of our users, there is not currently a demand for rolling over unused data purchased by users,” Ettiene Stroebel, of network partner Neotel/Liquid Telecom, told Memeburn.

Tweaking the pricing scheme?

The initiative’s pricing scheme leaves something to be desired as well. The initiative doles out 250MB of data each month per device, but the paid data allocation sees users paying R5 for 700MB, R15 for 2GB and R45 for 5GB.

It’s not an issue at first glance, but the 700MB tier only lasts for a day and the 2GB tier expires after a week. So why not have all the tiers last for a month, as is the case with the 5GB paid offering?

“We will raise this with Neotel,” the provincial government told Memeburn. But what does Neotel/Liquid Telecom think of this suggestion?

“The bundles were specifically structured to offer affordable access to the internet so that communities are able to explore the vast opportunities made available on the world wide web,” said Stroebel.

“As is normal for most internet users, regardless of service provider, users on Liquid Telecom’s WiFi service are extremely active and therefore tend to deplete their allocation of data relatively quickly.”

Surely, this is a cop-out of sorts? If the data allocation is only available for a day or for a week, then it would seem that users are more inclined to get their money’s worth and deplete it before it expires. Even if this weren’t the case, it’s great peace of mind for those who use data at a slower pace.

We asked Neotel about this claim but the company hasn’t come back to us with an answer as of publication.

The Western Cape Free WiFi Project has come in leaps and bounds, but it could still be improved

The Western Cape project offers 250MB of free data per device every month, but it pales in comparison to the Tshwane project, which offers a daily cap of 500MB. The provincial government explained the decision.

“The limit of 250MB per device month was set based on the affordability for the WCG [Western Cape government – ed] and to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the hotspots beyond government-only funding. WCG is paying highly discounted rates for internet bandwidth, while Neotel (Liquid Telecoms) is covering all infrastructure and network maintenance and monitoring costs for the WiFi project.

The free WiFi project does however whitelist several websites and services (such as educational content), allowing users to browse these platforms without depleting their cap. Are there any plans to add more content, such as the likes of Wikipedia, to the whitelist?

“There are ongoing discussions about whitelisting additional content which is relevant especially to education,” the Western Cape government explained, adding that there wasn’t a “firm deadline” for discussions to conclude.

The government also said that it would be delivering a “broader rollout” of the project. “The municipal ward boundaries in the province have changed since we concluded our initial agreement with Neotel, and discussions are underway to assess how best to achieve this goal,” it explained.

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