CellularOnline MD Leon Perlman is so confident that wireless Internet access will grow strongly that he has launched a hotspot locator website that will detail hotspot locations domestically and eventually internationally, writes Paul Vecchiatto of ItWeb.

Perlman says that WiFi has demonstrated its strength as a marketing tool for retailers and other businesses that depend on consumers as they often offer the access for free if beyond a certain amount of goods and services are purchased.

South Africa is a little behind Europe and the US in the development of WiFi hotspots as they only became legal since October, although some hotspots have been at the international airports since a year ago.

Furthermore, the strengthening of the rand exchange rate has meant that installing the technology has become a lot more affordable for small businesses, such as coffee shops - the server, WiFi transmitter, and the software management can be bought for as little as R7 000.

"The biggest inhibitor is the high price of bandwidth. Small businesses ideally need unlimited bandwidth at fixed price in order to make it work for them and their customers," Perlman says.

He says service offerings such as satellite communications provider Sentech’s MyWireless contracts, could be the start of bringing down the cost of bandwidth and making the WiFi uptake more extensive.

Perlman’s new site, MyWiFi.co.za, currently has about 50 South African hotspots listed and he hopes the public will inform him of more as they are established.

ITWeb will host a WiFi conference in March 2004 in Johannesburg where the findings of market research into the adoption and growth of wireless Internet access will be presented.

IT Web