Ptawug

Ptawug

Infobox wifi network
abbreviation = PTAWUG
full = Pretoria Wireless Users Group

url = http://www.ptawug.co.za
commercial = No
country = South Africa
area = Pretoria
users = (approx.) 147
operational = Yes
nodesurl = http://www.wug.za.net

Pretoria Wireless Users Group is a community wireless network just like the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network and Patras Wireless Network in Greece, Europe and Seattle Wireless in the United States, North America. PTAWUG is based in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. The network was created because of the telecoms monopoly in South Africa, until recently held by TELKOM, which causes internet access to be very very expensive (+-US$10.00 per GB of international traffic) as well a platform for experimentation and development in a restrictive telecoms environment. [ [http://www.ptawug.co.za PTAWUG provides city-wide free IP communications to its user community for non-profit use] ]

PTAWUG was founded on 28 July 2007 and is built on open principles (just like Wikipedia) where all connected members are equal and have the same say in the network. Every member on the network's input is valued as each member has a unique skill or something that can add value to the network.

The network is used for gaming, voip, file transfers and anything else that can run on TCP/IP. It is also used as a testbed for new technologies - a sandbox to test out new ideas.

The aim of the network is to provide free TCP/IP communications for non-commercial use to any person in the city of Pretoria as well as researching and learning about wireless technologies.

Community

PTAWUG brings a lot of people in the IT field together, a lot of information sharing and learning takes place. The community is responsible for the network - volunteers maintain the highsites physically as well as the configuration thereof.

This knowledge and these skills that are learning by "playing" with WiFi networks is very valuable to South Africa and Africa as there is a great skills shortage in the country and on the continent. By learning these skills the users of PTAWUG will be able to make a big difference in the IT development of Africa.

PTAWUG is a inclusive network, no one is denied access, it is totally built on openness and collaboration between members. There is no hierarchy on the network, all users are equal.

Regular meetings are held where new developments are discussed, the great South Africa tradition of a braai is part of these meetings. At these meetings the network users can meet each other face to face, outside of the cyber world - which is a good bonding experience.

The main communication medium on PTAWUG is IRC as this technology enables all the 'wuggers' to speak to each other, using PC's or cellphones, at the same time to easily plan expansion or discuss hardware/software problems on the network.

Network Infrastructure

The lack of a stable periodical income prevents PTAWUG from renting equipment space on commercial towers in and around Pretoria, and all highsites are put up on privately owned properties, with the permission of the owners. Houses on hills are most frequently used for highsites as they have good line of sight to the surrounding areas where members want to connect from. There are also four towers in use, three that has been built by members of PTAWUG themselves and another one where a user organized access with the owners.

Some facts and stats:
* PTAWUG utilizes the 2.4ghz and 5.8ghz public spectrum using mostly Mikrotik equipment.
* The IEEE 802.11a (5.8Ghz) standard is preferred over IEEE 802.11b or IEEE 802.11g (2.4Ghz) as commercialization in the 2.4Ghz range over recent years is a cause of high noise levels (measured in SNR or Signal to Noise Ratio), especially with commercial service providers distributing ADSL WiFi Modems freely with their service contracts, [http://www.telkom.co.za/athome/products/dsl/home_reduced.html Free Modem Bundles] .
* There are 240km of point to point backbone links running on PTAWUG, mostly using 27dbi grid antennas and running at 54mbps.
* Network throughput may vary from a few KB/second up to as much as 4MB/second depending on factors including network load, signal strength, signal quality and route length.
* The Open Shortest Path First OSPF routing protocol is used to build and distribute the routing table between the highsites with static routing used for last mile routing purposes.
* The community are constantly testing and trying different wireless QoS implementations. By using mainly Mikrotik equipment, PTAWUG manages to successfully prioritize TCP/IP and UDP packet types.
* The current QoS solution used is a port of the Mikrotik developed WMM protocol.

Collaboration

The Pretoria Wireless Users Group works closely with the Johannesburg Area Wireless Users Group - they have two links running between them - 22km and 40km. PTAWUG also swap ideas with Cape Town Wireless Users Group and Durban Wireless Community.

JAWUG and PTAWUG might merge in the future and form Gauteng (the province in which Pretoria and Johannesburg are located) Wireless Users Group - GAUWUG

Growth

In the past year the network has exploded from 4 users to 130+ users, all helping each other, playing games, sharing tips etc.The network grows at the rate about 10 new users a month. PTAWUG has also extended its network by connecting to several other wireless networks including JAWUG (Johannesburg Wireless Users Group). The exponential growth is mainly attributable to the free-for-all and open community principals governing PTAWUG, as users contribute their time, income and knowledge freely without hindrance of a governing body. The vast interest in IT and ICT amongst a very broad range of South Africans, coupled with the limitations in affordable South African commercial communication solutions further ensure rapid growth of PTAWUG, and other South African wireless user groups.

Other South African Wireless User Groups

* CTWUG - Cape Town Wireless Users Group
* Jawug - Johannesburg Wireless Users Group
* DWC - Durban Wireless Community
* BFNWUG - Bloemfontein Wireless Users Group
* PCN - Potchefstroom Community Network
* PEWUG - Port Elizabeth Wireless Users Group

References

* http://www.ptawug.co.za Pretoria Wireless User Group
* http://www.wug.za.net South Africa Wireless User Groups
* http://wirelessafrica.meraka.org.za/wiki/index.php/Links Meraka - Wireless Africa
* http://mybroadband.co.za/news/Wireless/4183.html - Free networks gain ground, MyADSL, South African Technology News website


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