COMPUTER LAP TOP/ WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY: A local surfs the Web in the street in the northern Salamanca town in this December 15, 2006 file photo. Salamanca, 200 miles (316 km) north of the capital Santiago, became Chile's first WiFi town in September. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet hailed the project as the first of its kind in South America and as a major step toward "cutting the gap between rich and poor, between the capital and the regions, between the large and small cities". To match feature CHILE-WIRELESS/ REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/Files (CHILE)

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

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

“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 aims to create 160,000 Fon WiFi hotspots across the country in the next two to three years.

 

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.” - Sapa