Pretoria Wireless Users Group

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Pretoria Wireless Users Group
Network Name (short) PTAWUG
Location Pretoria, South Africa
Home page http://www.ptawug.co.za
Nodes database PTAWUG database
Active users (approx.) 1728
Operational Yes
Commercial No

Pretoria Wireless Users Group is a South African wireless users group. It is non-profit community organization providing a Wireless community network in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa.

PTAWUG has been created as the community’s answer to South Africa’s restrictive telecommunications environment. The South African telecommunications industry has been marked by poor service delivery, monopolistic practices and prohibitively high prices.[1]

Founded on 28 July 2007, PTAWUG embodies the African spirit of Ubuntu. Its constitution guarantees openness, free participation and equality to all members of the Wireless User Group. PTAWUG is exclusively funded by donations from the community. Highsite installation and maintenance is conducted by volunteers in their spare time. PTAWUG exemplifies the proverbial open source Bazaar – no management team, no hierarchies, equal participation.

PTAWUG is the 3rd largest wireless network organization in the world, behind AWMN (Greece), TWMN (Greece). These two networks provide internet as well, which PTAWUG doesn't, so counting community networks that don't provide internet - PTAWUG is the largest on earth.

The aim of the network is to provide free TCP/IP communications in and around South Africa’s capital to hobbyists, researchers and other non-commercial users. The network is used for gaming, voip, file transfers and various other IP based services.

PTAWUG connects members from vastly different backgrounds and social standings and provides a sandbox for technology experimentation and community skills development.

Community[edit]

PTAWUG unites a number of people in the IT field, sharing of information as well as learning helps member to progress. The community is responsible for the network - volunteers maintain the highsites physically as well as the software configuration thereof.

This knowledge and these skills which are learnt by "playing" with WiFi networks is very valuable to South Africa and Africa as there is a great skills shortage in South Africa and on the continent.

PTAWUG is an inclusive network, no one is denied access, it is built totally on openness and collaboration between members. There is no hierarchy on the network, all users are equal. The ages of members connected to PTAWUG range from teens to 60+, different income groups and races are represented as well.

There is an administration team that keeps the technical side of the network running, consisting of about 25 people.

Regular meetings are held where new developments are discussed, the great South African tradition of a braai is part of these meetings.

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

Many of the skills members learn by using and being involved in the network they apply in their careers.[2]

Network Infrastructure[edit]

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. Private properties and homes located in high areas are most frequently used for highsites as they have good line of sight to the surrounding areas providing greater coverage for connecting clients. There are currently four towers in use of which three were built by the members as a team and access to the other one was arranged by one of the members. The rest of the highsites are located either on high buildings (like office blocks) or at private residences in strategic places.

Some facts and stats:

  • PTAWUG utilizes the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz public spectrum using mostly Mikrotik equipment.
  • Some users use Linksys WRT54GL routers to connect as well as Ubiquity Nanostations.
  • The IEEE 802.11a (5.8 GHz) standard is preferred over IEEE 802.11b or IEEE 802.11g (2.4 GHz) as commercialization in the 2.4 GHz 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,.[3]
  • There are 700 km of point to point backbone links running on PTAWUG, mostly using 27dbi grid antennas and running at 48Mbit/s.
  • Network throughput may vary from a few kB/second up to as much as 4 MB/second depending on factors including network load, signal strength, signal quality and route length.
  • The Border Gateway Protocol BGP 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 Quality of service (QOS) implementations to improve network usability and speed.
  • The current QOS solution used is a part of the Mikrotik developed WMM protocol.

Services Provided[edit]

All services are community built. The nature of the TCP/IP network provided serves as an opportunity for any user to install and provide Servers or services for many possible applications. Due to the cost of Internet Services in South Africa, many of these services provide free and open access to services that would otherwise deem a costly exercise.

Collaboration[edit]

Growth[edit]

In the past year (2007-2008) the network has exploded from 4 users to 500+ users,[4] 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.

See also[edit]

Other wireless networks operating in and around Pretoria
  • The Mereka Institute at the CSIR is operating a Pretoria Mesh[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]