File picture: Boxer Ngwenya/ANA Pictures

Pretoria - The future of TshwiFi - the capital city's free wi-fi service - looks positive, MMC Corporate and Shared Services Cilliers Brink has declared. 

Brink expressed optimism after the council, at its June sitting, approved an amendment to the contract between the city and the service provider Project Isizwe to maintain the quality and reach of the free wi-fi. He said the city had taken a step to put the service on a lawful and sustainable footing.

“As a result, the city has now successfully responded to address the Auditor-General's findings against the way the free wi-fi was initially procured.

"It can now fulfil executive mayor Solly Msimanga’s vision to save the project and expand its quality and reach,” he said.

The amended agreement would run until December, giving the city the opportunity to put the operation and maintenance of TshwiFi out to tender, according to Brink.

He said the city would look into finding other means of maintaining the service without relying on a sole supplier.

“In the meantime, the city and Project Isizwe will continue to test the commercial potential of free wi-fi as an advertising space. All revenue raised in this manner will accrue to the city,” Brink said.

The city would start a proper supply chain processes to find a service provider to operate and expand the free wi-fi network.

The city has budgeted R88.5 million for the project in the 2017/18 financial year.

The multiple award-winning wi-fi service provides free internet across more than 780 zones in the capital, including open public spaces, educational institutions, schools, clinics and libraries.

Users can enjoy free internet access with 500MB free data every day while also being able to make free calls, enjoying free chat and free movie streaming.

In May, the Pretoria News reported that the future of the free wi-fi service was in the balance due to a lack of funds.

At the time, Project Isizwe reported it only had cash to maintain the network at current levels until May 31.

Thereafter it would switch off at least five free internet zones that were out of contract, it said.

The cost of the network at current performance levels was R3.5m a month.

Some wi-fi hotspots were to be shut down if money was not available by June 1. The affected sites were Church Square, TshwaneNorth College, University of Pretoria, Mamelodi community centre and Soshanguve TUT campus.

But the city moved swiftly to assure the public that the wi-fi was going nowhere, with Brink stating an agreement had been made to extend the service by five months.

The city would incur the cost of operating those hotspots, he explained.

Pretoria News