Most of Nairobi folk have heard of Wazi WiFi by now. In case you haven’t, Wazi WiFi is a merged effort by Google and Wananchi Group, the guys who brought you Zuku, to provide cheaper and more affordable internet currently in Nairobi, around Nairobi’s suburbs and outskirts and eventually throughout the country. Some other businesses have also jumped on the bandwagon to widen Wazi WiFi’s network. One such company is Eatout that last month partnered with WaziWiFi to give internet in Kenyan restaurants.
How it works – Wazi is a Swahili word that means ‘open’. Wi-Fi then is the acronym for Wireless Fidelity which is essentially a set of standards for transmitting data over a wireless network. Wazi Wi-Fi then is a service that offers internet anywhere with a Wazi WiFi network using one login synchronized over a central payment gateway. This means that you will buy either a daily subscription card worth KES 50 or a monthly subscription worth KES 500 and then you can login and surf on an unlimited data plan anywhere there is Wazi WiFi. You only need to log on once. There was an event promoting Wazi at Stanley Hotel yesterday which Joe Mucheru who is the Google Country manager and Riyaz Bachani who is the Group Chief Technical Officer at Wananchi Group Kenya. He is in charge of Wazi WiFi.
During the briefing, Joe Mucheru reiterated how low internet usage and penetration in Kenya still is. “We currently have 8Tbps, or 8 Terabytes per second, of capacity that was made available immediately we got fiber at the Kenyan Coast. We are currently using only 6% of this bandwidth according to recent numbers from CCK. What this means for us is that the cost per user will still be high until we can get more users onto internet utilizing even half of our full potential.” said Mucheru. The cost per user really means what it costs the current active users on the internet to connect for data against the cost of laying infrastructure. The more the users on the network, the potentially lower the price will be. The key word here is potentially. This means that ideal conditions would force it to come down since supply and demand would both be high forcing price to come down. Simple economies of scale, yeah?
I know you are probably thinking, ‘We don’t really need this WiFi. We already have mobile broadband.’ Truth is, you still do need WiFi. Think of smartphone users. They are more or less constantly dependant on WiFi as a connection medium because data from our service providers is still too costly. Remember a few months back when Safaricom cancelled their Unlimited Data option? It is mainly because it became too expensive to give unlimited data to users who were maxing out their network nodes. Safaricom has since stuck to data bundles. Despite being Kenya’s largest mobile service provider that is betting big on data in their revenue curves, this should tell you something. Even they find data expensive. This then brings into play the issue of mobile offloading. Mobile offloading is a scenario where data users on mobile get automatically switched to WiFi when their phone Wireless chips detect it. Works well for people who need to do a lot on the internet.
“Every new laptop and most new phones that are being manufactured and distributed now comes with WiFi a WiFi connection capability. This means we now need to start thinking of a scenario where WiFi has got to be accessible to as many people as possible. Our intention is to cover every last corner with good WiFi to eliminate the infrastructure challenges that come with last mile connectivity. We are committed to doing this. We currently have about 200 hotspots locations covering many parts over Nairobi and Mombasa.” said Riaz Bachani Wananchi Group Chief Technical Officer and head of Wazi WiFi. Wazi WiFi is still looking for wireless hotspot owners to partner with all over the country upto and including Mobile Services operators and ISPs to ultimately cover the greater East African region. The Mobile Service Providers is a bit of a stretch though. One has got to ask what value the MSP will be getting from Wazi if their data is not being used, right? Think about it.
Overall, it is a good idea. Somehow though, I wish it were possible to connect to all wireless networks. Perhaps to encourage sign ups from other partners, Wananchi should consider a tiered marketing and sales plan that will see a reseller programme included to benefit all partners.
Again, I am of the opinion that what will really drive internet usage is uptake of cloud services for those already into internet usage on a daily basis and an introduction (and a staunch reason) for those who do not use internet as of now. The internet is rumoured to grow to an unimaginable size in 2020. There will be more hack attacks because crucial services like electricity grid operators will be online with servers around the World. See the infographic on tips4pc.
Check out http://www.waziwifi.co.ke