A Cape Town-based internet service provider, TooMuchWifi, is offering cheap internet to the city’s townships for R4 per gigabyte.
According to the company, TooMuchWifi provides fibre-backed internet connection, which works great on High Definition (HD) video and other applications that consume a lot of bandwidth.
Customers can get 4Mbps and 10Mbps line home connections, which are fast enough to stream a movie without buffering. It also offers a 20Mbps line, which large corporates often require for their customer service staff to work from home.
The company said low-income people living in under-served communities pay more for data than those in the leafy suburbs.
“Not only do people in townships pay more per gigabyte, but they also pay a larger percentage of their income towards it. On average, people in the townships pay up to R200 per gigabyte of data depending on the data bundles they buy.
“At these rates, internet access makes up 18% to 28% of many people’s daily income. Meanwhile, the middle-class pays an average of R2 per gigabyte of data, which constitutes an average of 0.15% of their income,” the company said in a statement.
TooMuchWifi said the main reason for this divide was the lack of access to affordable internet from home or safe spaces nearby. In its absence, people access the internet through their phones on the GSM network, 3G and 4G primarily, thereby incurring much higher rates of the limited mobile operators.
According to Cable.co.uk, between December 8, 2020 and February 25, 2021, South Africa’s data costs an average of R38.93 for 1GB – from a sample of 60 plans measured on February 25.
While major mobile providers have been adjusting their prices after Competition Commission found that South Africa’s major mobile providers – Vodacom, Telkom, MTN and Cell C – were charging too much for mobile prices, data prices are still high.
TooMuchWifi said in order for it to provide affordable data since it owns its infrastructure it runs its backhaul to data centres, these are transit centres that then connect to other data centres locally or internationally via undersea cables.
While the company started operating before the Covid-19 pandemic, it says the pandemic accelerated the need for its services.
TooMuchWifi CEO Ian Thomson said the company’s mission was to bring fast and affordable internet connection to townships.
“When my co-founder realised what his township-based domestic worker and millions of other South Africans were paying for internet access compared to him, we decided to do something about it at scale.
“Our customers are blown away the first time they go online at such high speeds from their homes because fast, affordable internet in the townships is so uncommon,” Thomson said.
He said there were no long-term contracts for customers.
“We remove another typical barrier to entry for many by not requiring contracts or long-term commitments. People can pay month-to-month and even pause their fixed-line fees.
“When someone can’t afford to pay their monthly bill, their wi-fi turns into a home-based hotspot that themselves, their neighbours, and their community can access by buying vouchers at any denomination they can afford. When they pay the fixed-line fee again, it reverts to being their personal, uncapped at-home wi-fi,” said Thomspon.
Users can also buy vouchers to access hotspots the company has set up in public spaces like spaza shops and shebeens.
“Our customers often don’t have more than a few rands to spend at a time and buy data in R5 or R10 vouchers. Traditionally, accessing the internet using such small denominations has meant paying extremely inflated costs per actual gigabyte. Our service cuts that cost dramatically. Hotspot users typically pay less than R10 per GB on TooMuchWifi,” said Thomspon.
He said the company, due to its affordability, has saved the people in Cape Town townships about R340 million in data costs.
“We have trained and employed more than 215 previously unemployed people from the communities we serve. We are working to bridge the ‘digital divide’ playing field by providing reliable and affordable data service to the townships.
“We believe that one of the steps we can take towards a more equitable future is to ensure that all South Africans have access to fast internet for school, work, and entertainment.”