Liquid Telecom Kenya, which is investing US $1 million in 2016 in hundreds of free Wi-Fi hotspots in Kenya, has launched an app mapping the more than 350 free Wi-Fi hotspots it has installed so far across the country. The company now has free hotspots in Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kajiado, and Nyeri, with more commissioned and due to open.
The Liquid Telecom Wi-Fi Finder app helps people find the free Wi-Fi zones, which are helping to open affordable access to the Internet.
“Our commitment to offering universal Internet access in Africa is key to the group’s business strategy. We have so far installed over 350 hotspots in Kenya, many of them in partnership with leading retailers, cafes, restaurants, bars, banks and shopping malls,” said Ben Roberts, Liquid Telecom Kenya CEO and Liquid Telecom Group Chief Technical Officer.
The sites in the Wi-Fi Finder all have some form of free, public access, running from a minimum of 15 minutes of free use to unlimited free use, such as the BilaWaya street Wi-Fi service in Nakuru.
The app shows the location of the free Wi-Fi as well as the address and contact details for each hotspot.
All of the Wi-Fi hotspots are free to consumers, but some of them are paid for by the shopping mall, bank, or the coffee shop offering the service as a way of enhancing customer experience.
Liquid Telecom Kenya is aiming to achieve a five-fold expansion in public Wi-Fi over the next year, which will help to expand Internet access from the current 74.2 per cent of Kenyans who currently have access, according to Communications Authority of Kenya figures.
“As more and more people are getting online with mobile devices, but cannot afford either fixed line connections at home, or only very limited mobile data packages, free Wi-Fi is becoming more and more popular as an alternative,” said Roberts. The free Wi-Fi investment by Liquid Telecom Kenya comes as the provision of free Wi-Fi is taking off globally and across Africa.
“For venues such as restaurants and hotels, free Wi-Fi will eventually become as expected as any other amenity. Good quality Wi-Fi is already a significant differentiator for businesses offering it to their customers,” said Mr Roberts.
Globally, the number of Wi-Fi hotspots is expected to grow to 340m by 2018, up from fewer than 50m today, according to the iPass Wi-Fi Growth Map, with retailers, hotels, and cafés driving the growth.
South Africa, which according to iPass currently leads in Africa for free Wi-Fi, has more than a third of its 8,611 Wi-Fi hotspots in retail outlets, another third are in hotels, and just over a quarter are in cafes.
In Kenya, the Nakuru BilaWaya project, a partnership between the State House Digital Team, Nakuru County Government and Liquid Telecom, is providing free street Wi-Fi as a high-capacity network covering a 10km radius from the central business district, with a capacity of 1Gigabyte per second. The free Wi-Fi allows students to study online, download textbooks and access information, while the unemployed are able to look for jobs online, and business owners and their customers can transact business online.
The BilaWaya initiative won the Changing Lives Award at the annual AfricaCom awards in Cape Town in 2015.