Meta Inc has halted its low-cost Express Wi-Fi internet it launched 5 years ago as part of its move to drive connectivity to many local regions.
The Mark Zuckerberg owned company issued the notice highlighting its plans to wind down the internet plan this year but the discontinuation left more than to be desired in countries in the sub-Saharan region, who have been worse hit with the halt.
Kenya on its own has had the Express Wi-Fi service disconnected since last year December, with the switch-off coming barely a year after the Former Facebook Inc company partnered with a geostationary communications satellite operator, Eutelsat Konnect, to expand the low-cost internet service in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Cameroon, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Ghana, South Africa and Uganda.
Malawi, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Senegal are among the other countries the Meta’s Express Wi-Fi had a reach and the join the over 30 countries across Africa, Asia and South America where the program was live.
In the official notice, Meta had written:
“After more than five years in operation, we are planning to wind down our Express Wi-Fi program. Together with our partners, we helped expand public Wi-Fi access for people in more than 30 countries via the Express Wi-Fi platform. While we are concluding our work on this program to focus on developing other projects, we remain committed to working with partners across the telecom ecosystem to deliver better connectivity.”
“As we conclude our work on the program later this year, we’ll work closely with Express Wi-Fi partners to help minimize the impact to their businesses and their customer’s connectivity,” the company said.
Meta Inc brand had worked with ISPs and mobile network operators to connect people, with the use of wifi hotspots, in public places like markets and facilities such as schools, in rural and urban regions, with the partners setting the price of the internet bundles sold by retailers or agents.
The Wi-Fi program envisioned to bridge the internet gap across emerging markets like Africa, in a continent whose connectivity is lowest across the globe. According to the 2021 GSMA mobile economy report, about 28 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is connected to mobile internet, with other region like Europe in comparison having their connectivity standing at over 80%.
The low connectivity ratio in Africa prompted Meta to bring in the Express-Wifi project t to bridge this internet gap, with the social media giant is now extending its 45,000Km 2Africa subsea cable across Africa, Europe and Asia as part of its low-cost internet strategy, in an obvious change of tact.
Other tech giants are also latching on the continent’s low connectivity and Google Inc is one of them. The Alphabet Inc owned company building Equiano, a sub-sea cable that is expected to cut across South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St Helena, in the process connecting Africa and Europe.
With more internet infrastructure being built, it is expected that the low connectivity rate would grow.
Investment advisory, and asset-management services company, The International Finance Corporation (IFC), forecasted the internet economy in the African continent to reach $180 billion, which will account for 5.2 percent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025.