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5 wireless hotspot providers keeping South Africans connected

With Pretoria getting access to free wireless in certain parts of the city, joining Stellenbosch and its invisible blanket of internetty goodness, the rest of the country can only be jealous while using regular wireless access. You know, the kind we have to pay for.

While it could only be a matter of months or years before we roam major malls and enjoy complimentary wireless access, it’s best to know where to get wireless coverage and what you can expect to pay. Now, this here list isn’t utterly comprehensive. It’s difficult to find out exactly which locations offer wireless access because not every bed and breakfast will have AlwaysOn or G-Connect. They’re likely to just have a regular private hotspot.

Nonetheless, the providers below operate in many public areas as well as coffee shops, restaurants, and other fine establishments in which you’d likely require access to premium bandwidth. Especially when your mobile network decides it’s not going to be cooperative – or you have a laptop that needs a connection, without using your phone’s precious data.

TelkomMobile Wireless

TelkomMobile’s map of wireless hotspots in Gauteng is an amorphous, blue blob that covers nearly most of the populated areas. The same goes for Cape Town, and again for Durban. Looking at the whole country reveals that there’s a decent amount of coverage – which makes us wonder why we’ve not seen these hotspots pop up more often while out and about. Nevertheless, given that these are on Telkom’s very robust and speedy backbone, access should be stable and usable.

Coverage map: Click here

Prices: Prepaid access can be had at R25 for 30 minutes or R40 for 60 minutes. Better yet, TelkomMobile offers free, unlimited wireless access (with an acceptable use policy) on certain of its data and contract phone options. Opt for one of the packages on this page and you can enjoy connectivity wherever you go.

AlwaysOn

One of the best-known names in wireless connectivity, AlwaysOn is – as its name suggests – always on in a variety of popular locations, including malls, clubs, restaurants, airport lounges and conference venues. Getting up and running is simple, too. Simply connect your phone, tablet, or computer to the AlwaysOn hotspot and a window will pop up prompting for payment details or alternative logins. Connectivity, for those of us who’ve used it, has been great most of the time, save for the occasional glitch where maintenance was involved.

Coverage map: Click here

Prices: It’s possible to buy access in minutes (starting at R30 for 30 minutes), or megabytes (starting at R15 for 50MB). The biggest data passes (2GB, 3GB, 5GB) can also last for up to 365 days if you pay more. Great for the busy traveller who wants to pay once and forget it. Certain ADSL internet service providers (MWEB, OpenWeb) also provide their accountholders with free wireless access at AlwaysOn hotspots.

G-Connect

G-Connect isn’t just a wireless hotspot provider, it’s an ISP. Offering bundles that give users 3G data, ADSL data, and Wi-Fi hotspot access, it makes for a simple way to have coverage without paying multiple fees. It’s also the only ISP in South Africa, thanks to a partnership with airline Mango, to offer in-flight internet. And there’s little cooler than replying to emails while they’re serving drinks at 30 000ft.

Coverage map: Click here

Prices: Ground-based wireless access starts at R29 for 30 minutes, and extends all the way to 3GB for R374 – valid for 365 days. If you’re in the air, expect to pay R50 for a pass that lasts 3 hours, or R90 for a whole week’s flying.

iSpot

This lesser-known provider has more than 250 hotspots across the country, covering private businesses including fast food outlets and car dealerships. Annoyingly, its map is less map and more “big list of where to find our hotspots”, which makes it difficult to geographically place one near you. But if you ever find yourself in a KFC or Mercedes dealership, you can hit them up for some wireless access.

Coverage map: Click here

Prices: Prices start at R5 for 7 minutes or 10MB of access, whichever comes first. A more realistic 30 minutes or 40MB can be had for R20, and a 30-day or 1GB package can be had for R149).

Skyrove

Aimed at small businesses who want to offer managed wireless access, Skyrove’s hotspots can be found at a handful of fixed venues around the country. More importantly, it’s one of few providers that covers events. In the past it’s been the chosen wireless provider for big events, including music festival Rocking the Daisies. Access is charged at a flat rate, so there’s no confusion around billing and packages, which keeps things simple.

Coverage map: Click here

Prices: 20c per megabyte. Which extrapolates to R1 for 5MB, R2 for 10MB, and R20 for 100MB. Fair, we think, and more than reasonable for those times when the cell network is too crowded.

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