French mobile operator Orange has partnered with the city of Cape Town to offer free Wi-Fi in Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain. Users will get 200MB of free data per day. The company also plans to offer paid data packages using the same Wi-Fi network down the line and has hinted at its plans to play in the Internet service provider (ISP) space in South Africa in the months to come.
Sebastien Crozier, CEO of Orange Horizons, says there are two planned phases for the project. “The first phase of the project will offer free Wi-Fi to anyone making use of a Wi-Fi enabled device. Users will get a free bundle per day to use as they please,” he says. “In the second phase of the project we will offer some paying offers along with free Wi-Fi.”
The project is aimed at “bridging the evident digital divide in South Africa and Africa, and providing Internet access to populations that have been largely disconnected thus far,” Crozier says.
He says the Wi-Fi project is also part of a larger plan for the telecommunications services provider. “This project is a major step in introducing Orange as an ISP in South Africa, and will be key in finalising the offers that will be launched nationwide in the months to come.”
When Orange first entered South Africa speculation followed that it would join Virgin Mobile (and the forthcoming Mr Price Mobile) as an MVNO, but dismissed the speculation, citing an unfavourable commercial and regulatory environment. Instead it launched an online store selling handsets and other gadgets.
“Orange is both excited and proud to be working with the city of Cape Town on this project. It is very important to us, as our brand is well known for having a strong CSR component, and these types of projects are very much in line with our vision of a world where internet access is available to all.”
Crozier says Orange is also looking “for new opportunities” to extend its public Wi-Fi offerings in the country but won’t be drawn on which areas it is looking at specifically.