Fon times ahead - Mweb partners with WiFi giant

16 January 2014 - 19:36 By Sapa
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Internet service provider Mweb has announced an exclusive partnership with the world's largest WiFi network, Fon.

This would give South Africans the opportunity to become part of a shared global and national WiFi network, Mweb said in a statement on Thursday.

"What this means for Mweb ADSL customers is that they effectively act as hotspots, sharing their WiFi signal, at home or at the office, creating a larger mesh network of WiFi hotspots."

Fon is based in Spain. Mweb aimed to create 160 000 Fon WiFi hotspots across the country in the next two to three years.

WiFi enabled connectivity to the internet wherever a person was, with internet access an important economic driver in South Africa and around the world.

To date, Fon had successfully launched in London with British Telecom, Belgium, Brazil, and recently, North America.

Mweb CEO  Derek Hershaw said: "We have been looking for a way to broaden our customers' access to WiFi beyond their home or office network without compromising the quality of internet access that they've become accustomed to."

Recent trends highlighted that South Africans were increasingly more mobile, with network equipment company Cisco predicting mobile traffic would account for 26 percent of all South African data traffic by 2016.

Orange Telecom was of the view that 50 percent of international mobile data would be delivered via WiFi.

Fon chief operating officer Alex Puregger said: "Fon are delighted to work with Mweb because of its track record, credibility, footprint and loyal customer base as it already has a large base of more than 320,000 customers."

Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of technology research company World Wide Worx, believed WiFi would go mainstream in South Africa in 2014.

"It's on the agenda of ISPs (internet service providers), mobile networks, shopping malls, eating places as well as regional and national government," he said.

"So when the Western Cape's DA government and the ANC in its manifesto stress the importance of WiFi then you know it's going mainstream in a big way."

Alan Knott-Craig, CEO of Project Isizwe which facilitates the rollout of free WiFi networks across Africa, said: "The future of telecoms is data. The most frugal way to roll out a data network is using WiFi.

"If we're ever going to see internet access as a basic service along the lines of water and electricity (which is inevitable), cost efficiency is the key. That's why WiFi is the future."