Since the launch of its first public hotspot (N1 City, Cape Town) in March 2013, MWEB has been happily offering free uncapped WiFi connectivity to anyone savvy enough to connect to its @MWEB SSID.
At the launch of new hotspot at Lanseria Airport however, Nathier Kasu, general manager at MWEB WiFi has said that the company is nearing the end of its free trial period and that customers can expect the paywall that’s been coming for the longest time to be in place within the next three months.
The reason for the year and a half of gratis access, Kasu says, was the need form MWEB’s service to reach critical mass in terms of points of access in South Africa and the fact that perceptions needed changing in terms of the quality of service public WiFi can offer.
The Lanseria hotspot is the 187th ‘WiFi Zone’ MWEB has switched on to date, all of which are backhauled with fibre connectivity. Kasu says that that allows the firm to offer both quick connectivity and uncapped usage.
When the paywall becomes active, all users will get their first 30 minutes free of connectivity per day for free. Thereafter they’ll either be able to access the service for free using the free WiFi access that comes with their current MWEB contract, or be able to buy access in increments of an hour for R10 per hour if they’re not MWEB customers.
The most cost-effective option for non-MWEB customers will be a week’s worth of connectivity for R100. Kasu is quick to point out that the service is completely uncapped and that although a fair usage policy does apply (extremely high data users will find the speed of their access throttled at times of peak load), in the year and a half the service has been running MWEB hasn’t had to throttle any user’s access.
He says that more than 400 0000 users have registered on the platform and that on average, each active user consumes in the region of 350MB of data per month.
He says too, that the platform is part of a much broader strategy to allow the wider audience of users within the Naspers group to access content produced by the various group companies while they’re on the move.
A perfect of example of this is DStv and its user base, which will from the time the paywall goes live be granted free access to MWEB’s WiFi Zones in the hope that they’ll make us of box office and catch-up titles (depending on the bouquet of services they have access to through their DStv subscription) over the network.
Kasu says that while it’s a goal for paywall to go live in February, it’s by no means an absolute deadline and there may be an extension of free access yet.