While the Project Isizwe Tshwane Free WiFi initiative continues making inroads throughout the City of Tshwane, a smaller, lesser-known project is on a similar mission to deliver an equally impactful free service to Soweto, Johannesburg.
Meet Brightwave, a broadband network service provider with its sights set on reaching residents in “underserved” areas in smart cities. The aim here is to override the often expensive and often inaccessible cost of WiFi by offering a free service.
Brightwave was established three years ago by a board of six directors and launched its services a year later in Soweto. Just last year, the company partnered with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to fund further deployment of an extensive fibre and WiFi network in the township.
Since inception, Brightwave has set up 400 hotspots around Soweto in locations including the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, seventeen primary and high schools, the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus, City of Joburg parks, community centres, libraries and tuck shops, among others.
It covers some of Soweto’s biggest areas such as Orlando East, Orlando West, Dobsonville, Dube, Klipspruit, Diepkloof, Pimville, Molapo, Meadowlands, Dlamini, White City, Killarney, Rockville and Senaoane.
“Our motto is ‘Broadband for All’ because we believe broadband is a necessity and a right, it shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for the elite,” Lusanda Mbane, Brightwave’s head of marketing and communications told htxt.africa.
Residents can use the free WiFi at any of the 400 hotspots by downloading the Brightwave Android app or by turning on their WiFi and searching for Brightwave.
Unlike other community WiFi projects, there is no daily data cap on the Brightwave network. This is because the company uses advertising on the platform as a revenue stream.
“How advertising on our platform works is that adverts automatically pop up in intervals on your screen while you’re on the network, after you’ve used a certain amount of data” Mbane explained.
Brightwave is also pioneering a project at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital where accredited doctors will have free online access to medical records and lab reports by the doctors, within the hospital.
Apart from its free WiFi offering, Brightwave also provides a home WiFi network service that Sowetans can have installed for R1 200 once off and a monthly fee of R149 which gives them 30GB of data.
Looking ahead, Brightwave doesn’t plan on remaining only in Soweto, but also branching out into other townships within and around the City of Joburg metro, such as Alexandra, Diepsloot in the short term and the rest of South Africa in the long run.
“You could definitely say we’re the “Project Isizwe” of Soweto, infact we’re the gateway to connecting Sowetans to the internet,” Mbane concludes.
[Image – CC by Steve Nimmons]