Facebook, the US tech giant has now launched a low-cost internet service in Kenya, setting the stage for a struggle for market dominance with Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya.
Chief executive of Surf Kenya, Facebook’s local partner, Mark Summer said that Surf Kenya is planning a countrywide rollout of the service in the coming months in pursuit of the social media giant’s plan to launch affordable high speed internet to the under-served.
The new Facebook product is priced much lower than what is currently available in the market. The social media giant is charging rock bottom prices for internet bandwich with plans that cost as low as 10 shillings for 40 megabytes (MBs) and 20 shillings for 100 megabytes (MBs) of data.
Safaricom currently charges 50 shillings for 65MBs while Airtel and Orange offers 50 MBs and 400MBs for the same amount.
Weekly Facebook Wi-Fi package is priced at Sh50 for 300mbs and Sh100 for 500mbs while a monthly plan is priced at Sh200 (1.25 gigabytes (gbs) and Sh500 for 3gbs. The Facebook product comes with speeds of up to 10Mbps, making it a potentially attractive offer for low-end market internet users. Facebook has already switched on the service in 10 satellite towns around Nairobi and has announced plans to introduce the product in Mombasa and Kisumu by end of this week.
Facebook’s regional head of partnerships for Express Wi-Fi in Africa Uche Ofodile said that Kenya is Africa’s tech hub and it fits well into Facebook’s strategy. And that they are happy to see the commercial roll-out of the Express Wi-Fi service that offers consumers affordable access and gets internet to the many people that remain underserved.
The service is targeting the millions of Kenyans who remain without access to the internet as well as a share of the 37.7 million Kenyans with access to the internet, according to the latest (July-September) statistics from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA). Internet penetration in Kenya stands at 85.3 per cent.
Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi is currently accessible in Nairobi’s satellite towns of Ongata Rongai, Limuru, Kiserian, Kitengela, Kiambu, Mlolongo, Ngong, Ruaka, Thika and Wangige where the firm has switched on more than 100 hotspots.
To access the internet, one needs to activate the wi-fi and select Express Wi-Fi by Facebook hotspot, where the prompt re-directs the user to the operator’s web address for a one-off registration.
Users are required to buy data bundles from the recruited agents also listed on the Surf Express Wi-Fi website.
Facebook said plans are under way to expand the reach per hotspot. The service is currently concentrated in public places such as shopping centers, office blocks and bus terminus. The tech giant is rolling out the service in partnership with Internet Solution and Surf Kenya, which rides on the former’s infrastructure.
Written by Amina Martha.