Sound of Silence–the WiFi Challenge

Is it possible to live and work wirelessly via Wi-Fi wherever you go in South Africa? This is the question that Ruckus Wireless network has asked.

No 3G Cellular internet. No ADSL. No WiWax. Only WiFi Hotspots.

Wherever you go these day there seems to be Wireless networks so this should be fairly straight forward right ?

Eh. Turns out that its not exactly as simple as that.

Internet at Hotelimage

Today was the first day of the WiFi Challenge and I am in Durban. I arrived in Umhlanage and checked into the Garden Court hotel. I asked the front-desk about their Internet facility and was told that there is an “internet work station” which I can connect to as soon as I buy a voucher charged at R22.50 for 15 minutes or R90 for 60 minutes.…No hotel hotspot.

Coincidentally, as I was checking in I overheard one of the Rebels Rugby team players who was staying in the same hotel questioning the people at Reception as to why they don’t offer Internet to their guests as this is just a “given" fact” where they come from. Silence. No Answer from the Reception staff.


I fired up my laptop and began to scan for free hotspots – there were none. Luckily there is an AlwaysOn hot spot in Gateway shopping complex which I am able to pick up in my room. Whew. I was able to hook up my laptop and start working.

This was superb up until the time that I had to leave for my first meeting and this is when I discovered a new anxiety I didn’t know I suffered from: WhereWillMyNextConnectionBe? which instantly set in as I drove away from the hotel and the laptop and phone became silent.

For the rest of the day I was completely disconnected with the only hint of the outside digital world coming in the form of the occasional SMS that tuned out to be my bank notifying me of how much money I was spending on my credit card. A far cry from the normal beeps of emails, Tweets and BBMs. I miss those beeps.

As the day went on, I actually became more and more anxious. What is happening ? Is everything ok ? What happens if a client needs me ? Who is saying what on Twitter ? What if there is new viral video that everyone knows about but me? ahhhhhhh !!!!! 

When I finally returned back to the hotel, I was almost too giddy as I connected to the Always On hotspot and heard the sweet sounds of Information returning.

What I discovered was that the world kept on spinning. No email was an emergency. The one items I needed to address I was phoned about. What I also began to notice is that when someone didn’t get an answer instantly, they somehow figured out what they needed to do and simply got on with it.

Sigh of relief.

Summary of Day 1:

This is going to be much harder than I thought. My work revolves around being connected – is this really possible with just hotspots ?

At the same time, I also begin to question if we have become too connected. Do we really need to have a 20 second response time to every email ?

Could it be that because we are so quick on replying to emails that people have stopped doing for themselves and just use the “I emailed him/ her and waiting for an answer” as an excuse to tick things of the list?

This is going to be interesting.


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