Ending months of speculations, Facebook has finally launched ‘Express Wifi’ – a low cost internet alternative to that offered by Kenyan telcos. The US tech giant partnered with Surf, a local Internet service provider to step-up competition for local service providers like Safaricom and Orange who have been reaping significant revenues from subscribers especially those using the social networking site.
‘Express Wifi’ by Facebook, went live in Nairobi and its environs a few weeks ago following similar launches in Uganda, Nigeria and India. For Kenyan’s who’d like to utilize the service, Express Wifi can be found in Thika, Ong’ata Rongai, Mlolongo, Limuru, Kitengela and Kiambu. Express Wifi bears significant similarities with Google owned balloon powered Internet commonly referred to as – Project Loon, that’s intended to offer affordable Internet access in rural and remote areas.
The Express Wifi has an offer where users can access 100MBs free daily package for a 10 days period after which they are required to top up through recharge agents recruited in areas where it is available. Daily data costs ranges from Ksh10 for 40 megabyte (mb) to Ksh20 for 100mb while weekly Express Wifi bundles cost Sh50 for 300mbs and Sh100 for 500mb. For users who’d prefere monthly subscriptions, charges range from Ksh200 for 1.25 gigabyte (gb) to Sh500 for 3gb though this would likely change after the official launch according to Surf Kenya’s CEO Mark Summer.
In comparison, users on rival service providers such as Safaricom, part with Sh50 for 65mbs while Airtel and Orange offers 50mbs and 400mbs for the same amount. “With Express Wifi, we’re working with carriers, Internet service providers, and local entrepreneurs to help expand connectivity to underserved locations around the world,” said Facebook’s Internet.org in a statement.
Currently, Kenya is one of the countries with high costs on data consumption. In fact, according to the affordability measure of The inclusive internet: Mapping Progress, the country ranks poorly. Express Wifi will empowers local entrepreneurs to help provide quality Internet access to their neighbors and make a steady income. Working with local Internet service providers or mobile operators, they’ll be able to use software provided by Facebook to connect their communities.”
Facebook says that using Internet access to drive economic opportunities and enable the free exchange of data and information, by ensuring that it is available, affordable, and allows usage that promotes positive social and economic outcomes. For instance, when users are able to purchase fast, affordable and reliable Internet, they’ll subsequently be able to explore the range of information it has to offer including news, education, health, job postings, entertainment, and communication tools like Facebook.