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Internet users in Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya can now connect to cheap Wi-Fi on the go following a continuing roll out by search engine giant Google.
Google communications manager for East Africa, Dorothy Ooko, said its Wazi Wifi initiative will make the net accessible without limitations — hence encouraging more consumption. The project is aimed at increasing internet penetration and bandwidth utilization in Kenya, and is a collaboration between local businesses, Google and the Wananchi Group, which is investigating which business models can sustain high speed, low cost WiFi in emerging markets.
“At the moment we have one major partner, Wananchi online, who has partnered with other businesses across Nairobi and Mombasa, but we are also expecting to get into an agreement with other ISPs to connect other towns,” said Ooko.
Already, Wazi Wi-Fi has deployed over 400 hotspots in 200 locations in the two cities. The technology integrates wireless networks from various distributors into a single channel making it easy for subscribers to log in from anywhere between the distributors. Google says increased access to the internet will better utilize the broadband available in the country. Currently, about 6 percent of the national internet capacity of 8400G is under utilization.
Subscribers of the service will pay from a centralized gateway through various payment methods ranging from mobile money services like MPesa to credit card and debit card payment. Kenyans looking to use the service can connect a single device to a hotspot for 10 minutes of free internet, or pay a daily charge of KSh50 (less than US$1) or a monthly charge of KSh500 (approximately US$6). There is currently no bandwidth cap, although Wazi Wi Fi says excessive usage will be monitored and curbed.
“Giving people access to the internet via Wazi Wi Fi will help improve penetration of the internet and utilization of the capacity we have, that is currently underused. The cost structure of the service helps break the cost barrier, which limits number of people using the internet,” said Joseph Mucheru, Google’s SSA ambassador.
Wananchi Group’s Group CTO Riyaz Bachani is in the meantime in-charge of Wazi WiFi as the ISP remains the biggest partner with other partners including restaurants, cable service providers and mobile network providers.
Before the partnership, Wi-Fi was available in selected restaurants, office buildings and individual created hotspots, restricting users to those locations to access the service.
Image: Kristin Marshall