The company, e-Mbizo, owned by entrepreneur Thabo Malebadi, is offering uncapped internet access in the East Rand township for as little as R10 a day.
“Our strategy is to target the underserved areas that cannot afford the high cost of data. We have managed to deliver reliable connectivity, despite numerous challenges,” Mr Malebadi said.
Besides 31 schools connected for free, there are 2,500 users, who use more than 200GB of data a day, he said. But there was the potential to get many more people online through partnerships with the municipality, small to medium-size enterprises, and community-based co-operatives in the area.
Mr Malebadi said e-Mbizo was training entrepreneurs in the area, including spaza shop owners, to sell vouchers and assist people to connect to the Wi-Fi network.
“The entrepreneur development model is vital for the success of this project and we urge government to participate in such initiatives, as they are sustainable interventions in job creation,” he said.
The company is gearing up for an exponential expansion of the network beyond Tembisa and is in talks with one of the established internet service providers to provide it with extra bandwidth capacity.
Like many small entities, e-Mbizo has faced challenges, especially with big operators who are charging big amounts for wholesale bandwidth. But Mr Malebadi is hoping to secure a favourable contract that will enable his business to grow.
A study by global research firm Analysis Mason finds nearly 70% of fixed and mobile operators surveyed have deployed Wi-Fi to meet the data consumption and service requirements of their customers. Telkom Mobile is offering free Wi-Fi to its customers in hundreds of public areas such as restaurants. Orange is looking at rolling out Wi-Fi in key tourist areas.
Analysis Mason said Wi-Fi was seen to be competing with cellular services, but was also playing an increasing role in mobile network operators’ approaches to traffic management and improving customer satisfaction.
It also gave operators of fixed-line and content services the ability to extend premium home services to on-the-go users.