If you live or commute around Lekki, Yaba, Alausa, Ilupeju and Ikoyi, chances are you've been walking past some interesting looking base stations. However you'd be surprised to know that not all of them belong to the big telcos -- as would naturally come to mind.
This cheap ignorance can be easily forgiven given that neither these telcos nor Tizeti for that matter made it a priority to make these base stations easy for people to identify them to a particular brand. I assume I'm making sense, except for the part where I mentioned Tizeti in the mix. You may probably be asking whether Tizeti is the newest telco on the block.
Well, Tizeti is an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and through their wifi.com.ng platform, they are able to provide unlimited internet services to multi-tenant buildings (estates majorly) SMEs, hotels, restaurant, and even large corporate organizations. More surprising is how they've been in existence for the past four years – mid 2012 -- and quietly winning the heart of many Nigerian Internet lovers with their unlimited and uncapped Internet plans.
We sat down with Ifeanyi Okonkwo, the General Manager Operations, to find out more on how they are building infrastructure to provide unlimited internet service in Nigeria. Ifeanyi has extensive tech experience with Sitcom (Dublin), O2 (UK) and most recently as a manager for Blackberry in West Africa.
How wifi.com.ng works
Aside from the bulk bandwidth which Tizeti has to buy from a top upstream internet provider other infrastructure are proprietary of Tizeti. Meaning they built the entire infrastructure from scratch. Distribution is done via Wi-Fi to places with a clear line of sight to these base stations. Between Lekki, Yaba, Alausa, Ilupeju and Ikoyi, Tizeti has scores of solar-powered base stations to serve clients with unlimited internet.
Upon request, Tizeti will come to your home or office and do the necessary set-up to hook you up to unlimited internet access. Services are however not restricted to these areas so long as the new areas have a clear line of sight to places where the base stations already exist. High number of leads coming from a particular area where Tizeti’s base station does not have coverage usually goes into the decision for locating their next base station(s).
Unlimited internet you say?
As if the allures of an unlimited internet plan in Nigeria aren’t enough curiosity to deal with, Tizeti’s cheap price offering does create room for extra doubts on first glance. However by reaping the benefits of what they call ”economics of scale” (for none economics students; that in simple terms means growing your businesses by exploring all avenues that reduce your operational cost) they’ve been able to roll out inexpensive and unlimited internet to their clients effortlessly.
Below is a screenshot of Tizeti's top client whom they claim amassed 370 – 530 GB of data usage in a month.
He/she is not looking likely to stop anytime soon, and it doesn’t look like Tizeti want him to stop either. "Its not uncommon to find users in Lekki use up to to 1TB (1,000GB) of data in a month", says Ifeanyi Okonkwo.
But it's one thing to have volume, it's another thing to have speed. Okonkwo assures that Tizeti's wifi.com.ng unlimited internet is not throttled. To assure a balanced quality of service across board, they promise an average speed of 3MBbps for individual users. Not wanting to take their word for it, I requested a live test at one of their access points in Yaba. I ran a speed test where I got 6 times the promised average.
Of course this is only theoretical. I tried a quick download and I only managed to max out at 1MBps. This was around 3pm during working hours. So there is a possibility that I could have gotten better download speed at night. But you have to remember this is unlimited internet at a considerably good price.
For starters, there’s an installation fee of ₦22,500 and after that, a monthly subscription fee of ₦9,500 for residential customers. For small business they charge a minimum of ₦15,000 and also provide dedicated internet at the cost of ₦50,000 per Mbps. The dedicated package has a much faster bandwidth (as high as 5Mbps) and is available for companies or SMEs with relatively high consumption rate or those with a large number of staffs. The good thing however is that even as a company with 6-8 staff members, you could decide to use the shared package available for residential customers.
The business has been bootstrapped itself thus far. Friends, families and personal savings from the founders have been the sole source of funding that have gone into this investment. Although when I hear unlimited internet and powered solar-powered base stations, it does raise another curiosity as to what role exactly bootstrapping got to play in all of that. But they seem to be doing a good job all the same.
While Tizeti is still servicing relatively new places as far as its base stations could reach in Lagos, the company intends to expand scope to other areas, like Port Harcourt and Abuja in the near future.
For now, Tizeti's unlimited internet service is open to residents in select (as mentioned earlier) regions of Lagos at wifi.com.ng.