Google is offering Ugandans cheap high-speed internet, with one day’s unlimited data using its newly launched wi-fi network estimated to cost 1,000 Ugandan shillings ($0.30).
Internet subscription is costly in Uganda where 25 megabytes may cost up to USh500 ($0.15) daily. MTN Uganda charges USh1,200 ($0.36) for 50MB a day while Uganda Telecom charges USh600 ($0.18) for the same amount of data. There are no unlimited data plans. Ugandans can now enjoy cheaper access with the new Google Wi-fi. However, it works only in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, for now.
The company is making the broadband wireless network available to local internet providers as part of a project to expand access to affordable, faster and more reliable Internet.
Google seeks to improve web infrastructure in Africa with the project which has seen it build a metro fiber network in Kampala. The company is also expected to build over 1,000 kilometers of fiber in Accra, Tema and Kumasi all in Ghana.
“As with our fiber network, our Wi-Fi hotzone network will equip mobile network operators (MNOs) and Internet service provider (ISPs) with infrastructure they need to deliver improved services to end users,” Google said in a statement.
“We offer these local providers access to wireless infrastructure—Wi-Fi access points and supporting equipment—so they can deliver Wi-Fi services without having to make duplicate investments in costly infrastructure.”
The new service was launched with local telecommunications company Roke Telkom, the first provider to offer Wi-Fi using Google’s Project Link hotzones. The tech giant said it was working with other providers to offer similar services. However, it noted that its partners would be the ones to determine costs and speeds for end users of the service.
Internet usage in Africa is still very low, with only 19 percent of people on the continent estimated to have access. Uganda’s internet users is estimated at 16.2 percent of the country’s population. Google’s new project is expected to change this. However, critics say the impact would not be significant if focus remained on the capital as against rural Uganda.
Facebook has a similar initiative to increase internet access globally, but it won’t be running a fiber network. The company has partnered with French satellite provider Eutelsat and hope to launch the first satellite in 2016.
When it launches, the concerns of the critics of Google’s project in Uganda could be addressed as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dream is to connect everyone, including “people living in remote regions”.
“Eutelsat and Facebook will each deploy Internet services designed to relieve pent-up demand for connectivity from the many users in Africa beyond range of fixed and mobile terrestrial networks,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post in October.