Telkom Wi-Fi pilot nearly complete in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (03/26/2004) - South African company Telkom SA Ltd. expects to complete its T-Zone WiFi hotspot pilot in July, says Steven White, Telkom's product development executive.

The company says that by then (July) it would have rolled out 100 pilot sites to Southern Sun hotels, conference centers and other major hotels around the country, as the company propels its drive to introduce a commercial WiFi service in its new financial year.

"The pilot has provided useful information about usage patterns and technical aspects of the service that Telkom will use to fine-tune the T-Zone service in preparation for commercial launch," White says.

Telkom launched a pilot last year to gauge the market and gain experience in the field. It says that all ADSL users were given free access to Telkom T-Zones, and non-ADSL customers can log on and get a free two-hour session.

The company says it has learnt that notebook users are still slow to install WiFi cards since the pilot started. "They have chosen rather to adopt a "wait and see" approach given the low user base in SA," White says.

He adds that one of the hotly debated industry issues at the moment is content provision. "The world trend is moving towards downloading in favor of viewing content online, which opens up the market to users who do not have large bandwidth capabilities. There is also a trend towards charging for content, which is a real challenge going forward. Up to now large volume of content has been available free of charge," he says.

White concludes, "Telkom is harnessing its core strengths in the landline world through the provision of ISDN, ADSL and satellite services. The landline continues to prove to be the first entry point as a basic data hub."

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