Business / #ForbesBusiness

July 31, 2018,   3:23 PM

Google Station Expands In Africa

Abisola Owolawi

I write about business, entrepreneurship, innovation, wealth and culture with a focus on global impact. Innovative, groundbreaking ideas and the structures that drive them over time, inform my subject choices. I cover industries that span manufacturing, service, technology, entertainment, healthcare and aviation among others, across Africa for Forbes Middle East. I have previously worked as Forbes Africa’s West Africa Correspondent, a wealth contributor on the annual Forbes rich list and as a CNBC Africa business contributor. FULL BIO

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Tech giant Google has expanded in Africa through the launch of Google Station this week after its public Wi-Fi service went live in Nigeria. The new service is set to boost internet access across the country’s biggest cities by providing high speed Wi-Fi hotspots at no cost to the users.

Google Station launches in partnership with 21st Century Technologies, one of Nigeria’s largest fibre network providers.

Similar to its rollout in countries such as India, Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand, Google will tie up with local infrastructure service providers while it offers a cloud-based platform and devices to enable and manage hot-spots.

According to Google Nigeria Country Director, Juliet Ehimuan- Chiazor, rollout sites will include markets, transport hubs, shopping malls, universities and more.

Already live in four locations across Lagos-the country’s most populous city, the service will extend to 200 more locations across five additional Nigerian cities by the end of 2019.

Google’s VP Product Management, Anjali Joshi says the program will fix connectivity challenges in the country.

The search engine giant began rolling out public Wi-Fi hotspots in early 2016 at India railway stations. The scheme soon metamorphosed into ‘Google Station’. Through the program, company partners are provided with tools to set up Google’s hotspots. It has been a successful offering for the multinational so far, with plans to expand this service to more locations around the world underway.

As with Facebook’s free Basic’s scheme, which provides access to a set of limited web services, Google Station’s mandate is to get people online for the first time. Densely populated countries serve as its initial service zones. Following a ban from Indian regulators for breaking the country’s net neutrality rules, Facebook explored the idea of low-cost Internet access points through its Express Wi-Fi project.

Facebook Express Wi-Fi hotspots are now available in India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.

In spite of the free service offering on Google Station, the company plans to monetise its use at some point with proceeds to be shared with local partners.

The wi-fi service is not Google’s first Internet access –focused initiative in Africa. Project Link, which builds fiber-optic networks to provide faster broadband for local service providers and mobile operators, was launched in Uganda and Ghana while talks with Kenyan telecom operators to launch ‘Project Loon’- an ambitious plan to beam internet using solar powered high altitude balloons also ensued.

Other announcements include updates to products from its Go Initiative, which launched last year such as Google Search, Street View, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go and Android Go.

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