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ThinkWiFi launches first Kenyan commercial outdoor deployment of TIP OpenWiFi

Kenya’s largest ISP dedicated exclusively to rural and peri-urban markets teams with free, uncapped internet operator to provide disaggregated, open-source Wi-Fi network funded through digital advertising monetisation model

Africa-based ad-tech free Wi-Fi internet service provider ThinkWiFi has teamed with Microsoft-backed internet service provider Mawingu to launch the first outdoor Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenWiFi network in Kenya.

TIP aims to accelerate the pace of innovation in the telecom industry by designing, building and deploying technologies that are more flexible and efficient. It says that operators face a key challenge: demands on their networks continue to rise despite a persistent connectivity gap. It also says that operators need to extend their networks to connect more people, as well as upgrade their networks to support increasing traffic.

TIP has a number of community labs around the world where members can test and validate new technologies with the goal of creating more flexible, efficient offerings.

Launched on 12 May 2021, the OpenWiFi project aims to reimagine the way enterprise grade Wi-Fi networks are built and deployed. The project is based on open-source development and automated testing to allow Wi-Fi service providers to deploy access points, cloud controllers and smart analytics from different suppliers. It will allow for automated testing and the power of community to create an entirely new option for Wi-Fi service providers.

OpenWiFi-based services are designed to allow ThinkWiFi to mix and match access points and controllers from any TIP OpenWiFi-compliant manufacturer and developers to quickly create new applications given it is open source.

The collaboration between Mawingu and ThinkWiFi is funded using an advertising-based model, the first time a TIP OpenWiFi network has been built and commercialised using a sponsorship platform.

Managed from ThinkWiFi’s headquarters in South Africa, the Wi-Fi network uses TIP OpenWiFi-certified hardware and software including access points (APs) from Edgecore and CIG. Wavespot, a provider of Wi-Fi network infrastructure and location-based services, provides the cloud controller, which also implements the backend analytics and location-based services through its AICloud, allowing ThinkWiFi to gain customer experience insights. The Wi-Fi network is built on top of Mawingu’s network infrastructure.

Read more about TIP deployments

The ThinkWiFi OpenWiFi network is the first part of a larger roll-out that will include additional city centres, transit and tourist hubs and retail malls in Kenya and South Africa with future plans to expand into other African countries and southern European regions. The ThinkWiFi OpenWiFi network deployments are expected to cover a number of public service and healthcare facilities through collaboration and partnership with public organisations.

“We are a purpose-based business working to close the digital divide,” said ThinkWiFi founder and CEO Janine Rebelo.

“Working with Mawingu and TIP OpenWiFi provides social upliftment where everyone can get connected to enterprise-grade Wi-Fi through an easy-to-use advertising platform. It’s a win-win-win: brands win by gaining access to high growth consumer segments, consumers win with free, uncapped, high-speed connectivity, and the community wins by getting unfettered access to the digital economy through free Wi-Fi networks powered by advertising revenue.”

Mawingu CEO Farouk Ramji said: “Mawingu’s aim is to help our customers access new opportunities for work, education, entertainment and social connections, through the power of the internet. Our company’s mission is driven by this very purpose: Open Opportunities. Through our collaboration with ThinkWiFi and OpenWiFi, we can provide free internet to bring us closer to bridging the digital divide in Kenya.”

More than 300 companies are involved with the TIP OpenWiFi initiative, from OEMs, ODMs and silicon providers to managed service providers and app developers.

Commenting on this latest deployment, Jack Raynor, TIP OpenWiFi programme group co-chair, said: “Funding the network through advertising makes community connectivity widely available, and as OpenWiFi already offers a much lower TCO, it’s a very effective way to build affordable Wi-Fi networks in city centres. Simply put, OpenWiFi is beneficial to the communities that we serve, and that’s why we’ve seen it scale so rapidly around the world.”

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