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 InnscorAfrica.com

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