Despite the relative illegality of Wi-Fi in SA at present, HP SA and SA Outsourcing last week announced an agreement that will see them provide a solution that aims to enable companies to deploy Wi-Fi rapidly. According to the press release issued by the two companies: "The HP ISM (Integrated Service Management) for Hotspots solution integrates all the key software and hardware elements needed for high-speed data services in WiFi hotspots, wireless LANs (local area networks) and fixed wireless environments."

"Many companies want to generate new revenue with hotspot services - but have been held back because of the barriers to entry, namely cost, risk and the lack of expertise. Together, HP and SA Outsourcing have an answer that eliminates those barriers," says Pedro Viudez, CEO of SA Outsourcing. "With this agreement, we are the first to market with a comprehensive solution that enable businesses to deploy hotspot services quickly - and manage them cost-effectively," he adds.SA Outsourcing will re-sell the HP solution to both businesses and service providers, and will work closely with HP to provide professional services and support, the release states.

In addition to selling the entire solution, SA Outsourcing will also offer HP ISM for Hotspots as a managed service. SA Outsourcing itself is deploying the master platform and integrating it into its existing WAN for SA. Thus, with customers deploying only the local platform, SA Outsourcing can operate the hotspot as a managed service, further reducing the cost, risk and time to deployment for the hotspot venue owner, the release notes. Whilst the use of Wi-Fi equipment is not illegal in SA, per se, the provision of wireless Internet access is. Wi-Fi may only be used within the confines of private property - using it in a WAN environment, for example, is not permitted. Icasa has issued a discussion document on Wi-Fi, in which it states that it is aiming to facilitate the provision of telecommunication services using Wi-Fi, it also clearly states that it is only looking at doing so on a customer’s premises, single piece of land, or contiguous pieces of land owned by the same person.

Legalities aside, the solution proposed, while offering some security, does not seem to offer secure wireless connections to the access point at this moment. Nick Parkyn, chief ISM architect for HP’s E-Solutions division, says that users will need to bear in mind that this is a public service, and that logistically it would be extremely difficult to issue users with separate encryption keys. So, ultimately, users will have to make use of some sort of personal firewall in order to ensure that their notebooks and PDAs are safe from hackers connected to the same wireless LAN.

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