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Kenya unveils first free Telecom Infra Project

By , Africa editor
Kenya , 11 May 2023
The project will provide free internet access to Kenyan citizens.
The project will provide free internet access to Kenyan citizens.

Kenya has today witnessed the launch of its first outdoor Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenWiFi network.

This will provide free internet access to Kenyan citizens, and marks the first time that an OpenWiFi network has been commercially deployed using an ad-based monetisation platform.

The TIP will launch in collaboration with its community members, ThinkWiFi (an Africa-based ad-tech free WiFi internet service provider) and Mawingu (an internet service provider, backed by Microsoft).

TIP OpenWiFi is an open source-based Wi-Fi architecture that enables multi-vendor, interoperable Wi-Fi networks.

Managed from ThinkWiFi’s headquarters in South Africa, the Kenyan WiFi network uses TIP OpenWiFi certified hardware and software including access points from Edgecore and CIG.

Wavespot provides the cloud controller, which also implements the backend analytics and location-based services through its AICloud allowing ThinkWiFi to gain valuable customer experience insights.

The WiFi network is built on top of Mawingu’s network infrastructure.

The ThinkWiFi OpenWiFi network is the first part of a larger rollout that will include additional city centres, transit and tourist hubs and retail malls in Kenya and South Africa with future plans to expand into other African countries and southern European regions.

“ThinkWiFi’s mission is to empower people by giving them access to the internet. We are a purpose-based business working to close the digital divide,” says Janine Rebelo, founder and CEO of ThinkWiFi.

Rebelo adds: “Working with Mawingu and TIP OpenWiFi provides social upliftment where everyone can get connected to enterprise-grade WiFi through an easy-to-use advertising platform.

“It’s a win-win-win, where brands win by gaining access to high growth consumer segments, consumers win with free, uncapped, high speed connectivity, and the community wins by getting unfettered access to the digital economy through free WiFi networks, powered by advertising revenue.”

Jack Raynor, TIP OpenWiFi programme group co-chair, comments: “This network clearly demonstrates why TIP OpenWiFi is the most innovative connectivity solution on the market today. It’s open, with multiple vendors supplying hardware, so it can be scaled to provide superb speeds without vendor lock-in.

“Plus, funding the network through advertising makes community connectivity widely available, and as OpenWiFi already offers a much lower TCO, it’s a very effective way to build affordable WiFi networks in city centres.

“Simply put, OpenWiFi is beneficial to the communities that we serve and that’s why we’ve seen it scale so rapidly around the world.”

For Farouk Ramji, CEO, Mawingu, his company’s aim is to assist customers access new opportunities for work, education, entertainment, and social connections, through the internet.

"Through our collaboration with ThinkWiFi and OpenWiFi, we can provide free internet to bring us closer to bridging the digital divide in Kenya," says Ramji.

The Kenyan WiFi project comes at a time there are strong calls for private and public entities to act, and play a meaningful role in connecting underserviced areas across Africa with affordable internet connectivity.

A study released last year by theInternational Telecommunication Union (ITU) revealed Africans paid more thanthree times the global median price for mobile broadband services, and overfive times the global median for fixed broadband in 2021.

“Broadband services have ceased to be a mere luxury," said ITU’s former secretary-general, Houlin Zhao. “They are a necessity for communication, teleworking, online education and other essential services. Still, we must urgently address the issue of affordability if we hope to achieve our goal of universal and meaningful connectivity."

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