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Google’s WiFi Initiative Crashes & Burns In SA 3 Months After Launch

holding phone

Last July, we wrote about Google Station, a collaborative effort between the tech giant and network operators to launch over 100 free WiFi hotspots.

When they started pitching the service to South African networks there were questions regarding the viability of the business model which would’ve been based on advertising.

They launched in November in Cape Town but now they are already winding down:

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We are transferring our Station operations in South Africa to Think WiFi, which will now carry out the project independently.

Since we first started, the ecosystem has evolved and combined with complex and varying technical requirements across countries and partners, we have been re-evaluating our plans and have decided to wind down Station through 2020.

Google Spokeswoman

The spokeswoman also added that Google “remains committed to look for ways to make the Internet more accessible for users around the world”, suggesting that Station, unfortunately, isn’t that solution – especially at scale.

In our article back in July, I highlighted that the model had two fundamental issues which I think still holds true;

  1. If a telecoms company is investing in infrastructure why not just sell the service directly to you as they already do instead of putting up infrastructure and then having to look for advertisers etc
  2. The mobile hotspots that telecoms companies put up offer direct competition to their existing network

I have doubts there is enough incentive on the part of telecoms companies – Google has targetted these as potential partners – to actually make Google Station a thing but it seems the project is still alive in other countries so they could figure out a way to make it more sustainable and scalable.


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One thought on “Google’s WiFi Initiative Crashes & Burns In SA 3 Months After Launch

  1. Google are putting their money in the wrong places. African international connectivity is super limited for most countries, especially landlocked ones, with only one or two “real” suppliers at the most. This means no real competition or redundancy, which reflects inflated prices with lacklustre service onto the end users.

    Google should at least consider funding and running their own:
    a) underseas fibre around the African coastline
    b) cross-county fibre network throughout the continent
    c) both of the above

    A project like this would cost hundreds of millions of USD to implement, so is not something to be blinked at. However, it would allow for greater redundancy, competition, and connectivity options for ISPs — and therefore a faster, cheaper, more reliable service for end users.

    Plus, with their own private connectivity, Google can bring Google Cloud to SA and other places in Africa without concern, therefore decreasing the continent’s reliance on European hosting locations.

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