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ZOL WiFi now free-ish. Should Innscor get into the WiFi business?

Back in May, when ZOL flipped over it’s WiFi hotspots from free to $5 for a Gig, we wrote:

So the problem with “free” is that after your customers have enjoyed it for a while, whatever adjustment you make to the price, however cheaper it is than your closest competition, if it’s not free, you’re going to make a lot people unhappy.

Less than 5 months later, the hotspots are free again. Well, sort of free. The company forces you to watch a video advert – a 100 seconds ZOL fibre one at the moment – as payment. -And you don’t get unlimited tied with free. You only get 50MB or just 30 minutes. I imagine that’s enough to get a couple of quick things done.

The thing is, when ZOL started to charge for WiFi, it was significantly cheaper than its closest competitor, TelOne, which was charging $1 per 100 MB. But that changed not long after when TelOne slashed that to $1 per 350MB.

Then a month later,  TelOne, overnight, switched on some 100+ new hotspots thanks to its Innscor deal.  As a commodity, the WiFi service people choose is largely decided by price. ZOL’s WiFi was not only not free, it became expensive!

Speaking about the Innscor deal, we discussed the other day the question “What if Innscor itself got into the WiFi business?”

Granted, Innscor isn’t a technology company, but it has some of the best real estate in the country which is frequented by people who have a bit of cash to spend on higher-priced fast food which cost more than your Sadza and Chicken. Plus people have a better memory for which corners have an Innscor outlet than those with a TelOne or ZOL hotspot.

With increasingly more people carrying WiFi capable smartphones with them now, internet access on the go is changing from an optional service to a need. Almost everyone that is in the Quarter Chicken & Chips queue is twiddling with a phone, sending a WhatsApp video, reading a news article, checking out their friends’ photos on Instagram or listening to the latest Zimdancehall release on SoundCloud.

People are already buying & using someone else’s product – the internet – while they wait for their food, and that product is as much a commodity and as straight forward to implement as Innscor’s bread ‘side business’ at these outlets.

Straight forward in that Innscor can just buy the full package from TelOne itself – then just white-label the hotspot. I’m not sure what dynamic would work better, though. Just bundling the internet with the meals – that is a get free WiFi-for-buying-something-combo or selling the WiFi itself as a service.

I imagine though that Innscor is not trying to make you stay long at its outlets. Once you buy your chicken + coke meal and have grabbed your bread-to-go, Innscor is unlikely to upsell you anything else, so it wants you gone. It’s fast food! The internet may work against that.

Or, in the quest to bring people into a chicken + internet bundle, the internet only ‘clients’ may end up taking up all the space and making it too busy for the chicken customers. So maybe internet would only come as part of a regular meal purchase?

Back to ZOL and WiFi – what we find strange is that only ZOL and TelOne are aggressive about the WiFi opportunity. The rest of the players (especially those without Econet type licenses) seem not bothered. They see no opportunity apparently.

Which makes you wonder just how big an opportunity WiFi is. Are they avoiding having to give away their internet for free like ZOL is clearly being forced to do?

Those of you at ISPs, please educate us in the comments.

Photo via

Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

19 thoughts on “ZOL WiFi now free-ish. Should Innscor get into the WiFi business?

  1. Something else to look at might be for Innscor to offer you FREE internet while you wait for your order.

    Basically, when you pay for your order, your receipt will have an access code that will allow you to access their internet. Once your order is done, the cashier presses a button, that will notify you on your phone that your order is ready and that you have 2 minutes left to access the internet.

    Another thing might be that they can show you promotional videos of their products and locations, prior to you accessing the internet.

  2. I think its better to stick to their core business and let the providers offer these internet services. If Innscorr were to enter themselves they would have costs asscoiated with the learning curve and also possibly to hire extra labour. Its much better that they choose to partner with networks who also have their loyal customer base already.

        1. What I am saying is if they are going to offer broadband they shouldnt go it alone, its not their core strength, you look at starbucks they have partnered with Google and if you look at the Airline industry, they have partnered with GoGo wireless for WiFi so its wiser for them to partner if they want long term success in free provision.

        2. But alas, that’s what I thought too until recently.

          When it was explained to me what they are actually doing it blew my mind!

          These guys and others like them worldwide are into REAL ESTATE.. Now, pick your jaw from the floor and thnk of that for a minute.

          These guys have the best spots in town, the most popular corners, where people go to get a product (in this case “fast food”), but ultimately, they have the best real estate in town to do what they want with it.

          1. That still doesnt mean Insscorr is an expert in wifi provision, if their service of wifi in the customers eye the brand quality has been lowered. Remember the value of anything is dependent upon perception!! even Macdonalds has partnered with 3rd parties which is where I believe you got your real estate idea from.

          2. These guys and others like them worldwide are into REAL ESTATE.. Now, pick your jaw from the floor and thnk of that for a minute

            After thinking about it for a minute – it’s still reductive and wrong. You might as well say they specialise in logistics because “they have to plan and manage supply of ingredients” or in Finance because they “optimise their cashflows”.

  3. I liked your analysis of how Wifi would be viewed from Innscor’s point of view and it does explain why these fast food outlets are not so keen on grabbing the wifi service so quick. The free wifi concept is better served in more relaxed environments I guess, coffee shops (mugg and bean) or snack bars (maestro type, they have some sort of free wifi there). And william the free option you talked about is ok, but it wont benefit customers if the fast food outlet is efficient; which by the way they thrive to be everytime. Personally, I dont think Wifi would thrive at fast food outlets… just too hectic for browsing and apping…

  4. Good article, but I think it misses the point. There must be a good compelling reason why any company markets its service the way it does. I think there is a catch that we have not yet seen! nothing is really free in this world.

  5. Free wifi is expected in food outlets in more advanced economies, whether it they serve coffee or fast food (McDonalds, BurgerKing, Starbucks, etc).

    If I had a fast food outlet, I’d have free wifi just to attract customers – getting an access point an a broadband connection is a fixed cost. Lack of free wifi is a result of lack of competition. If one franchise has it- everyone else will be forced to provide it.

      1. The cost of broadband is dwarfed by other costs of running a business (salaries, rent, inputs). You can even slot it under ‘marketing’ costs.

        Someone always pays for ‘free’ items… usually the user! Where else could the money come from?

  6. To make it free or not make it free, that is the question
    This is quite an interesting article, bringing up the issue of WiFi services at Food outlets. I was wondering also about what if they could bring the service at supermarkets , OK, Spar, Bon Marche as a customer value added services. Making it free or not is up the the ISP and business partner.The food outlets can offer a meal with “complimentary” Wi-Fi service, the customer receives a code when they purchased something.

    One arguments against offering free Wi-Fi service at food outlets is that , “You charge something so that you don’t have people camping out all day and essentially taking up table space.”The more time customers are sitting at the tables, the more money they are going to spend . i believe offering WiFIiaccess to the Internet for those customers will add even more sales and make customers more loyal to the brand. Rosenblum, a Retail Systems Research once said: “Anything that brings customers back to a store whether it’s the music, the newspapers or Wi-Fi is really a customer-centric practice for businesses.”

    1. Dee, the point is this is all really skimming the surface. I read some research, there are more clever ways to give customers free wifi. I think someone is ahead of the curve here. There is valuable information gathered when you access this “free Wifi” clever people are capturing that information and selling it. This is why I say.. it is really free? for instance. If I was in the business:
      1. I could get your details by asking you to register.
      2. I could track your movements. i.e. know the places you visit frequently.
      3. Sell that information to shops: that could for instance entice you by sending an offer to your phone as you walk past their storefront.

      Just an example. So thinking carefully.. who is the real customer here for these guys providing “freeish wifi” is it really the public they are after?

  7. But ZOL has had free wifi all along. Found this out when i got fibroniks for the business. You just configure devices via zol care and you are good to go. Free wifi 24/7. catch you need fibroniks/gpon and it must be one of the unlimited packages.

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