Soweto might soon have access to wireless broadband

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

Internet service provider MWeb has started testing a wireless broadband service targeted at Soweto. A Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) base station has been erected on top of Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital.

MWeb was one of six WiMax entrants to receive temporary licences from government regulator Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa). MWeb chief technical officer Mervyn Goliath said WiMax was a cheaper way of bringing broadband to Sowetans than the offerings like Telkom's ADSL service.

It is also cheaper than the existing wireless broadband technologies offered by the cellphone networks, radio and TV signal distributor Sentech and the lottery's network provider Wireless Business Solutions.

"WiMax allows high speed Internet access over a greater distance without relying on copper wires to relay information. It uses radio towers or base stations similar to those used in the cellular industry that transmit and receive information from a distance of 5km to 30km from the base station at broadband speeds," said Goliath.

"It is an alternative technology to delivering Internet services because you do not require major digging up of roadways and pavements to install underground cables."

MWeb was awarded a six month trial licence in January. The trial will enable 1000 homes and businesses in Johannesburg and Cape Town to be connected within the next two months.

Later this year Icasa will award commercial licences to select players including Altech, Tshwane Metro, BCS NET, Internet Solutions and Telkom, which recently entered the WiMax arena.