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The eThekwini Municipality is South Africa's second-largest economy after Johannesburg, and is home to 3.5 million people. In this thriving city, data cost is a major factor affecting the proliferation of Internet access among the majority of residents. The eThekwini government has noticed this and recognized that free public Wi-Fi would bring many benefits to its residents.
As such, the eThekwini government launched a three-year public Wi-Fi construction plan to provide convenient and accessible Internet to the public, empowering more citizens to enjoy the beauty of the digital world. According to the plan, in the next three years, approximately 450 public Wi-Fi hotspots will be available in eThekwini, covering 96 public libraries and the landmark Moses Mabhida Stadium, as well as tourism and business centers, including aquariums, seafronts and the uShaka Marine World.
"The public Wi-Fi solution is important because it helps address the inequality issue caused by high data costs. As an important part of our smart city strategy, we'd like to see more people enjoying free and high-quality Wi-Fi and information services brought by the digital world," said Immanuel Pillay, the municipal government IP Senior Manager. "For example, with free Wi-Fi, more and more young people can access the Internet and apply for jobs online. This will significantly raise employment, and boost our economic development and social stability."
"Public Wi-Fi will also allow more people to access education resources that were inaccessible to them, which is conducive to the development of education," Immanuel Pillay added.
Due to the large population flow, public places are most likely to see uneven per capita bandwidth allocation and unguaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs), in turn resulting in poor Wi-Fi experience. Furthermore, frequent use of mobile devices poses greater challenges to roaming. These factors bring more challenges to building a public Wi-Fi network. In order to overcome these challenges, the eThekwini municipal government chose to partner with Huawei to advance its free public Wi-Fi construction plan. Huawei's smart antenna technology improves the throughput of the entire network by more than 20% and enables eThekwini citizens to use bandwidth-demanding applications such as 4K and VR smoothly. The innovative radio algorithm in Huawei Wi-Fi 6 ensures service continuity with no packet loss during terminal roaming, guaranteeing a smooth Internet experience for all kinds of situations, such as web page browsing, video playing, and picture downloading. Huawei Wi-Fi 6 supports RADIUS authentication which effectively controls user access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the municipal government shared pandemic prevention precautions to the public on Captive Portals through public Wi-Fi.
The eThekwini government does not only focus on improving the lives of its residents, but also hopes to enhance the Internet access experience of tourists. It is committed to marketing itself as a "must visit" destination for domestic and international tourists, boosting economic development and employment. Therefore, stable Wi-Fi coverage is required in outdoor tourist attractions such as plazas and seafronts, but is let down by a lack of poles or even optical fibers or power supply in such areas, making it difficult to install APs. This is where Huawei's PowerCube 500 Solution can come into play. This solution provides outdoor integrated cabinets featuring a modular design for power supply and network and integrating multiple functions. This solution ensures compact, one-stop, and flexible configuration, greatly simplifying AP deployment in outdoor scenarios, reducing AP deployment costs, and ensuring pervasive Wi-Fi 6 coverage.
"Before the plan was launched, there was only legacy indoor wireless available in our libraries. This was later expanded as a proof of concept to a few more sites to test the viability of installing the service on outdoor areas to give access to disadvantage communities. There were a number of challenges during our Proof of Concept deployment like: availability of power, safe areas to deploy the AP’s, network connectivity of the site back to a Network Point of Presence, as well as maintenance of equipment. We were worried about these challenges in deployment of Wi-Fi networks. Through a open procurement process Huawei was chosen as our technology partner for the next 3 years. Huawei has shown to be reliable partner. Its world-class Wi-Fi 6 products, mature campus solutions, as well as flexible and efficient processes help us a lot in building free public Wi-Fi networks," Immanuel Pillay said.
Currently, Huawei's Wi-Fi 6 has been widely applied in more than 800 commercial projects worldwide, and has the largest market share globally (excluding the North American market), according to a report on the global Wi-Fi 6 indoor AP market share by Dell'Oro Group. In the future, together with local communities, Huawei will continue to bring digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world.
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