South African free uncapped Wi-Fi company marches on — despite losing Google

Free public Wi-Fi hotspot company Think WiFi has continued to grow its coverage footprint in South Africa, despite losing Google as a partner more than two years ago.

The search giant shut down its free Wi-Fi programme Google Station in February 2020 and transferred its operations to ISP Think WiFi.

That was barely three months after the pair launched the first free Wi-Fi hotspots in the Western Cape.

The collaboration aimed to offer several hotspots in townships, public areas, universities, transportation hubs and shopping malls to provide underserved communities with access to online resources and opportunities.

At the time of the Google Station shutdown, Think WiFi said it would continue to operate the service as users had become accustomed to it, with plans to launch in more areas across the country.

In a recent update on the service, Think WiFi CEO Janine Rebelo told MyBroadband it had deployed a further 282 W-Fi access points after Google pulled out.

Alongside the 161 sites already available when Google Station shut down, its tally of locations across South Africa now stands at 442.

It also carried through its plans to expand beyond the Western Cape, with sites now available in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern and Northern Cape.

The map below shows some of the locations where Think WiFi hotspots are available in Gauteng. The full map can be viewed at the bottom of Think WiFi’s homepage.

The Think WiFi service is funded through revenue generated from advertising.

MyBroadband previously tested the service and found we first had to watch Telkom and Showmax ads before we could start browsing the Internet.

Each session on the service was 30 minutes long, after which we could elect to watch another ad to continue accessing the Internet.

Rebelo explained that Think WiFi partnered with highly experienced digital media sales and advertising channel partners to fund its operations.

“They have successfully taken our Wi-Fi-enabled Ad Tech product, ThinkZone, to market and established the brand as an up-and-coming contender in the township marketing vertical,” Rebelo said.

She also said the service had been integrated into Google’s global digital advertising management application and currently served over 13 million ad impressions in five provinces to more than one million users each month.

Companies advertising on the service include Vodacom, DStv, FNB, Bokomo, and Selati.

Educational impact and safety

Rebelo said all their sites were very active, with students, business owners, teachers, security officials, and artisans relying on them.

Think WiFi, Google, and the United Nations Development Programme connected 20 schools in underprivileged areas to digitise their curriculums and train teachers on education applications using free Wi-Fi

“To date, 25,000 learners receive high-quality education through this initiative,” said Rebelo.

Think WiFi is planning to roll out to more schools, youth centres, and community libraries in the near future.

The programme has also deployed 104 solar-power street lights near its Wi-Fi venues in townships, providing additional security at night.


Now read: Western Cape government launches new Wi-Fi hotspot every two days

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South African free uncapped Wi-Fi company marches on — despite losing Google