Digital map provider, MapIT, is the sole provider, (via GIS vendors, Giscoe) of all spatial data to wireless Internet provider, MyWireless.
Coverage by MyWireless is no hit-and-miss affair with highly refined coverage models being required to pinpoint where one is able to receive the MyWireless signal. Broadband signal and multimedia distributor, Sentech (provider of the controversial MyWireless service), make use of MapIT's high-tech digital maps as visually assistive tools to represent coverage and to help in the accurate placement of base stations.
As Africa's largest broadcasting signal distributor, Sentech operates a large number of terrestrial broadcasting transmitter sites, which carry short-wave, medium-wave, FM, television and microwave frequencies and serve most public, private and community broadcasters in South Africa, as well as international broadcasters wishing to access African audiences. In January 2004, Sentech launched MyWireless as the first portable, always-on Internet access product, offering an alternative to traditional dial-up Internet access.
The MyWireless geographical spread of signal coverage is highly complex - where the importance of knowing where a signal stops in order to re-use the frequencies, is as vital as knowing how extensive the coverage is. The planning of this requires incredibly multifaceted interaction of radio propagation with geographical and man-made features on the landscape. This comprehensive data is often highly proprietary and benefits from the support of digital mapping.
The MyWireless service runs on a radio frequency at the high end of the frequency range ie, between 2,5 and 3,5 GHz. The effect of this on signal accuracy in these higher frequencies, is that the waves are unable to 'bend' around physical objects, making line-of-site from the antenna much more critical than in the case of a radio broadcast frequency for example, where the lower frequencies are much more 'forgiving' in that they are able to 'bend' past objects such as buildings, trees and natural topography of the land.
This means much more detailing is required to provide a signal to a specific area, with something as simple as a large boulder or a building able to block reception of the MyWireless signal - these areas are called 'shadow' areas and literally mean the area behind an obstruction between the base station and person requiring reception. Electronic mapping makes possible the accurate visualisation of signal coverage, placement of base stations and also lies at the foundation of the Internet search facility when checking if your area falls within the coverage zone. 'Zone Locater', as the service is known, places your position on a digital map in order to show, visually where the signal distribution lies - proving that a picture says much more than 1000 words.
MapIT MD, Ray Wilkinson states that companies who take advantage of digital maps will reap the benefits, "Electronic mapping is making its presence felt in the business arena and future growth within the broadcast and signal distribution industry is being subjected to growing technological and commercial influences, with an explosion of complex and pressing choices. Decisions have to be made quicker and any tool that can help is undoubtedly welcome. Sentech, through the use of our maps, via licensed partner, Giscoe, have not only grasped the elements of change in the broadband business, but are able to apply them to their benefit."