Netstar and Vodacom plan Wi-Fi offering for South Africa’s taxis

Netstar and Vodacom plan Wi-Fi offering for South Africa’s taxis

Vehicle tracking and telematics company Netstar and Vodacom Business (the enterprise-focused ICT subsidiary of the Vodacom Group) have partnered to offer Wi-Fi to commuters on thousands of minibus taxis around South Africa.

Netstar’s telematics devices installed in Toyota minibuses can double up as Wi-Fi routers. They have been fitted to about 3,200 taxis across the country, with the “potential to reach 48,000 connected taxis”, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday, which was widely reported in the local press.

Thus, with the technology infrastructure already in place to support connectivity, commuters simply need to connect seamlessly to the Wi-Fi through the WiTaxi app. This service is completely safe and free to users, who can, according to the partners in the offering, access as much as 1GB of uninterrupted Wi-Fi per day.

Is there a catch? Well, sort of. In exchange for what is described as “free, high-speed Wi-Fi”, commuters must watch 15-second advertisements before getting access to the platform.

Nevertheless, this is a way of monetising a large and consistent user base. As Netstar group MD Grant Fraser said in a statement: “South Africa’s taxi industry is responsible for more than 60% of daily commutes, making it an integral part of the country’s transport sector and a significant economic player."

WiTaxi is not new. The WiTaxi site points out that it launched the in-transit Wi-Fi on the 14th of June 2014. Nevertheless, this business model will no doubt be carefully monitored, especially at a a time when Wi-Fi is very much in the news in South Africa as regulator ICASA examines its spectrum allocation options.

Vodacom says it is also looking to introduce a reward system linked to this network through its super app, VodaPay. 

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