VAST Networks (VAST), one of the largest Wi-Fi service providers in Afrika with approximately 2,500 hotspots around South Africa, has announced an offer that is possibly the cheapest for Internet access in South Africa. At R50 (about $3.66) for a 1,5GB data bundle package that can be used at anytime of day at any of the VAST Wi-Fi hotspots in South Africa, it brings the challenge to mobile service providers in South Africa who typically charge around 3 times that price for a 1GB data bundle package which expires after 30 days of purchase.
The only downside, some might argue, is that unlike mobile service providers'networks, VAST customers are restricted to physical locations where VAST Wi-Fi is available.
“South Africans have a voracious appetite for Internet connectivity and given the immense growth potential of the sector from a socio-economic perspective, our [Wi-Fi] vouchers provide flexibility to consumers who are not looking to be tied down by contracts. It also affords them the convenience and liberty of accessing the Internet without concerns around cost or data limitations,” said Grant Marais, CEO at VAST Networks.
VAST's newly announced Wi-Fi vouchers will be available for purchase across a range of South African retailers and entrepreneurial vendors in township communities in Gauteng.
Mobile vs Fixed line
We have passed the stage of debating whether Internet access is a luxury or a necessity given how it provides so many opportunities and access to information for those who can afford it. The question then becomes what is the best method to ensure as many people as possible have access to high-speed Internet access.
Depending on who you ask, some might say mobile is the way to go while others will proclaim that fixed line broadband (and Wi-Fi using fiber) is the more sustainable and affordable solution. In South Africa specifically, there has been outcry on the cost of mobile-based Internet access costs, yet when you investigate closely, the cost of fixed-line based Internet access is much cheaper for consumers that mobile Internet access. This is why companies like VAST can offer cheaper Internet access packages compared to mobile service providers as their Wi-Fi runs primarily on the back of fixed-line infrastructure.
Given this dynamic, shouldn't we rather be focusing on having as much fiber optic cables rolled out across South Africa as possible so as to ensure affordable high-speed Internet even in rural areas instead of fighting mobile service providers who are clearly not dropping their prices anytime soon?
“Our ambition is to bring ubiquitous, affordable, high-speed connectivity to people across a diversity of socio-economic classes, enabling a better and simplified understanding of the Internet and furthermore, data usage. We also understand that people use applications, not megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB), which is why VAST will soon be rolling out uncapped bundles specifically for social media applications such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat from only R5 for a week’s access. We are confident that our voucher solution will promote inclusion by empowering more South Africans to access and benefit from the Internet.” said Marais.
Everyone deserves affordable high-speed Internet
VAST covers a range of high-density locations including traditionally, infrastructure-poor regions. Locations include major shopping centres, hospitals, airports and other transport hubs, hotels, restaurants, townships and inner-city residentials, amongst others. This footprint presents a major advantage in providing affordable connectivity - on the go - to the almost 75% of South African Internet users who connect via mobile devices.
Wi-Fi by VAST vouchers are available to purchase from select prepaid channels including Smartcall, FLASH shops, Digital Planet (through African Bank Technology deals offered in branches) and Randgo. The vouchers will soon also be available at Engen petrol stations. Purchase of a 1voucher at PEP Stores can be redeemed for a Wi-Fi by VAST bundle.
Cover image credit: One of the shops where VAST Wi-Fi is available in Diepsloot, South Africa.