Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana

Last week the Gaborone City Council launched a free public Wi-Fi service which aims to stimulate the usage and uptake of Internet-based services. The free public Wi-Fi, dubbed Gabz Free Wi-Fi, is offered through Bofinet, a local internet service provider. 

It has Botswana Hotspots, a carrier-grade public Wi-Fi offered on an open access network infrastructure basis to telecom operators or service providers to enable them to deliver their managed Wi-Fi services.

The Gabz Free Wi-Fi is based a Wi-Fi 5, an 802.11ax technology, so named by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The specification a multi-station throughput of at least 1 gigabite per second and single-link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second. Bofinet says the public Wi-Fi the throughput of the installed Multiple Access Points have download speed of up to 80 megabytes per second per access point. They plan to upgrade the solution to Wi-Fi 6 in due course.

The first phase of this project entails the installation of Wi-Fi Hotspots in ten public spaces in Gaborone.

“Considering that Botswana is not a populous country, as a starting point, the solution has been dimensioned to have the capacity of 500,000 users, currently connecting about 20,000 users per month,” Lawrence Masike, Bofinet Wi-Fi manager told Biztech Africa.

“The intention is to connect as many users as possible within the Gabz City Free Wi-Fi,” Masike said. He added that the Gabz Free Wi-Fi aims to facilitate broadband penetration by expanding the network in the country as per National Broadband Strategy, to stimulate usage and uptake of internet-based services and to provide a platform for innovative services.

Why it matters

Speaking at the launch in Gaborone, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said his government was working to ensure that all citizens have access to the internet so that the ideal of  “Leave No-One Behind” as envisioned by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, is realized.

“We will leverage leading information communication technology (ICT) as a key contributor to economic growth and employment whilst also enabling an efficient private and public sector,” he said.

Masisi said the provision of internet services will enhance creativity and innovation, and as such facilitate economic diversification. He added that he was hopeful that the Gabz Free Wi-Fi will enable Botswana to make use of the available internet services.

Masike said the consequences of the global pandemic Coronavirus have revealed that ICT and internet connectivity is no longer a luxury but a critical tool for development.

Ongoing work

The Gaborone City Council also offered the potential users of the Gabz Free Wi-Fi initiative a complimentary voucher of one hour of free unlimited internet access on a daily basis.

Masike said the source of power is from the main grid and there are currently no charging pots in these Wi-Fi hotspots. “But we are working with local authorities to introduce them in due course,” he said.

Masike noted that plans were underway to roll free public Wi-Fi out to other cities where they have public WiFi infrastructure in the southern African nation such as Francistown, Selibe Phikwe and Maun.

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