Google Station is set to make its debut in South Africa according to new information from insiders and MyBroadband.
What is it? Google Station is a platform which makes it easy to roll out safe and protected Wi-Fi hotspots in public places by providing its partners with software and hardware support. This is obviously much needed in our country where only about 50% of SA is using the internet.
Google works with network operators, fibre providers, system integrators, and other partners to offers its Google Station Wi-Fi service across the world. It will also offer monetisation opportunities to its partners by displaying advertising to people who use these hotspots.
Already available in India, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Nigeria, and Brazil, Google Station is expanding fast and it's great SA is now part of Google's roll-out. It is said the plan is to roll-out 100 Stations locally before September, though this is not official.
As an example of the power Google Station can bring, last week Google and Cisco started the roll-out of 200 free, high-speed Wi-Fi spots in Bengaluru, India. The Philippines also saw a massive growth of 50 to 400 station in 5 months. Google places its Stations in high-traffic areas where people spend a lot of time, like government buildings, bus or train stations, as well as hospitals.
An insider told MyBroadband that Google is in talks with mobile operators and Wi-Fi providers to launch its Google Station service, with the aim to hit 100 stations in South Africa this year being the main goal. Google South Africa spokesperson Mich Atagana told MyBroadband that they believe in the importance of access in Africa and would like to expand Google Station to other African countries. She couldn't confirm however that any deals had been confirmed between Google and local providers.
Some local experts are skeptical though. Google’s local operator partners will be responsible for all the costs related to the Wi-Fi hotspots, including the telecoms infrastructure, hardware, and maintenance. And many argue that this high infrastructure cost will outweigh the money made from advertisements that are run through the hotspots. Another issue could be that Google Station would offer free, unlimited internet, which could reduce mobile data usage which could scare off local providers even further.
Time will tell but it seems unlikely that Google Stations won't expand to South Africa. How soon it will expand to SA is the real question.