In the last weeks few weeks I?ve had a couple of interesting digital experiences.
First came news of a fully digital photo mini-lab operating in Springfield Park then I heard that wireless Internet connections are now available in parts of Durban and, finally, I cracked and joined the world of mobile computing.
The costs involved in accessing the Internet in South Africa can be heart-breakingly high if you happen to be an enthusiast or own a business which depends on e-mail or the Web for its survival.
One of the major costs is the price of the bandwidth and the other biggie is the telephone, ISDN or digital line that you have to have to connect. We can’t do much about the bandwidth cost until Telkom’s monopoly ends but there in now an alternative to paying through the nose for the connection between you and the Internet.
Durban firm T-SOL is now offering flat-rate permanent Internet connections via radio to domestic and commercial users. The company is a franchisee of MegaWan which pioneered wireless Internet connections in South Africa.
Domestic users will pay from R585 and commercial users from R1250 per month, excluding VAT, and the price includes the rent of a radio card that slots into your PC and an antenna for relaying signals to and from the relay stations that T-SOL has established around Durban.
The basic domestic package will allow you to download files at 64 kilobits per second which works out at around 8 kilobytes per second and while that isn’t blazingly fast, it is more than you’d get through a conventional modem and there is the added benefit that you’re connected all the time.
I was taken to meet T-SOL Director Charles Murray’s father who has the service installed at his home in Durban North. I surfed about the web on his system downloading various bits and pieces along the way and the response was better than I’ve ever had from my modem.
I was also taken to an installation where a commercial customer’s office network has been connected up. I also know of another organisation which even hosts its web sites from servers in its offices via radio link.
The T-SOL service sounds as though it would be just the job for individuals and small to medium businesses who are heavy Internet users but, unfortunately, not everyone who wants it will be able to get it.
Technological limitations mean that there has to be a direct line of sight between the customer’s premises and one of the relay stations before the system can be installed.
There are presently relay stations on Kensington Heights, Chartwell Centre in Umhlanga, Malvern Heights, and Westmead, and another will soon be established on the Old Mutual Building in the center of town.
In passing it is worth noting that a permanent Internet connection does increase the chances that somebody with malicious intent will try and attack your machine in some way.
It is therefore absolutely vital if you have T-SOL’s service, or indeed any other permanent connection, to give attention to keeping the baddies out by installing appropriate security barriers and keeping them updated.