Net Nine Nine launches free WiFi pilot in Swaneville

  • Local ISP Net Nine Nine is piloting a free WiFi project in Swaneville on the West Rand.
  • After watching a 15 second advert, users get 30 minutes of free unlimited data access.
  • The adverts are served by Think WiFi and users can extend their session by watching a second advert or starting a new session.

Among the many problems that the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns highlighted was that of the ever-present digital divide in South Africa. According to the most recent Census 2022 data, as many as 21.1 percent of South Africans still don’t have connectivity at home.

In a bid to help bring more South Africans online and bridge the digital divide, local internet service provider Net Nine Nine has launched a pilot program together with Think WiFi in Swaneville just outside of Kagiso on the West Rand. The Net Nine Nine Free WiFi pilot allows residents to freely connect to a high-speed WiFi access point after watching a short advert.

The adverts span 15 seconds and grant a user 30 minutes of uninhibited access where they can download, stream or visit any website they want. This access can be extended to 60 minutes by watching another 15 second advert. When the time expires a user simply needs to repeat the process.

While that sounds like a bit of a chore, the payoff is incredibly fast internet access. At the launch of the pilot program on Saturday afternoon, Hypertext was able to easily connect to the service and registered download and upload speeds of 44Mbps and 9.99Mbps respectively.

The ISP is quite clear that there is no speed limit to the offer. However, we should note that like all wireless access points, the more people that are connected to the network the the lower the speeds will be.

The access points are solar-powered and as such should remain active during loadshedding.

Speaking with chief executive officer at Net Nine Nine, Albert Oosthuysen, he explains that while Net Nine Nine provides internet access to areas such as Kagiso, communities such as Swaneville may not be a viable area to launch a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) offering. It’s important to keep in mind that installing the infrastructure for fiber connectivity is still very costly and while service providers tend to recoup these costs through fees, that means fees can be higher than most anticipate.

By launching an unlimited WiFi service that is monetised through ads, the hope is that communities like Swaneville will come online, leverage the internet to their advantage and ultimately upgrade to FTTH when they are able to.

“There is a responsibility for us to get internet access into as many hands as possible. The internet gives you the ability to market yourself, your products, or your services to the rest of the world,” says Oosthuysen.

“There’s also the education side where you can use the internet to teach yourself new skills. We’re very passionate about the Free WiFi project and bringing free internet access to Swaneville,” the CEO added.

The adverts are served via Think WiFi which sells advertising that powers networks such as this pilot being conducted by Net Nine Nine. However, rather than simply serving generic ads, Net Nine Nine hopes that in future it will be able to offer targeted advertising to specific access points. This could help local businesses reach more customers both in their community and beyond.

Should the pilot prove successful, Net Nine Nine says it will expand the initiative to more regions.

The ISP says that it’s encouraged by the number of users it has seen completing to process to get free access to the internet.

For those in Swaneville, this is great and we wish Net Nine Nine all the best during this pilot, especially if it means more regions could get free WiFi in future.

[Image – Net Nine Nine Facebook]


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