Google is planning to bring Google Station, which aims to provide “fast Wi-Fi for everyone”, to South Africa.
Google Station is a platform which makes it easy to roll out safe and protected Wi-Fi hotspots in public places by providing its partners with software and hardware support.
Google works with network operators, fibre providers, system integrators, and other partners to offers its Google Station Wi-Fi service across the world.
Google Station also offers monetization opportunities to its partners by displaying advertising to people who use these hotspots.
Big Google Station expansion plans
Google Station is already available in India, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Nigeria, and Brazil – and the company is aggressively growing its footprint across the world.
Last week Cisco said it partnered with Google to launch free, high-speed Wi-Fi at 200 locations in Bengaluru, India over the next two months.
These public Wi-Fi hotspots will be located in high-traffic areas where people spend a lot of time, like government buildings, bus stations, and hospitals.
Google has also rapidly grown its Google Station availability in the Philippines by increasing the number of public hotspots from 50 to 400 in the last five months.
“We aim to set up Google Station in more locations nationwide so Filipinos can connect to opportunities and benefit from the growing digital economy,” Google said.
Google Station plans in South Africa
Well-placed industry sources told MyBroadband that Google is courting mobile operators and Wi-Fi providers to launch its Google Station service in South Africa.
One industry source told MyBroadband that Google plans to launch more than 100 Google Station Wi-Fi sites in South Africa as soon as September.
It is not clear whether this is a concrete plan or whether Google is still looking for local partners to make this a reality.
Google South Africa spokesperson Mich Atagana told MyBroadband that they believe in the importance of access in Africa and would like to expand Google Station to other African countries.
She would, however, not comment on their Google Station plans in South Africa and whether they concluded deals with local partners.
Many players sceptical about Google’s plans
It is understood that Google’s value proposition to local mobile operators and Wi-Fi players is a revenue share opportunity on advertising revenue.
Google’s local operator partner will be responsible for all the costs related to the Wi-Fi hotspots, including the telecoms infrastructure, hardware, and maintenance.
In return, Google Station will show advertisements to people who use the service and share this revenue with the operator.
Industry players told MyBroadband that the revenue generated through advertising is unlikely to cover the investment and maintenance costs of the hotspot network, however.
An added concern for mobile operators is that their subscribers will then use free Wi-Fi data instead of mobile data, which further deteriorates the business case.