Microsoft-Backed Startup Has a Genius Way to Give People Wi-Fi in the Philippines

Internet access to some parts of the world is either extremely limited or non-existent. It’s no secret that the Philippines has one of the worst Internet services in the world.

However, there are now free sponsored Wifi hotspots in stores across the Philippines to help with the country’s incredibly slow and unbelievably expensive Internet problem. A startup called Wifi Interactive Network (WIN) is on a mission to bring Internet to the masses using a novel business model.

WIN, which was awarded a grant by Microsoft as part of the company’s Affordable Access Initiative, is working with businesses to create sponsored Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation. By partnering with packaged goods manufacturers and companies, WIN is able to provide these hotspots at small neighborhood convenience stores, restaurants and bars in rural areas.

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How it works is consumers buy the brands’ products, register for Wifi access and then the store approves it. According to Tech in Asia customers are able to buy products such as shampoos, detergents and kitchen condiments in a sachet, or small disposable plastic package. The sachet, which comes from a sponsoring company, allots consumers Internet access for a specified amount of time.

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Founder Philip Zulueta explained his business model:

“This is a sustainable business model because the brands generate immediate revenue from their sponsorship. In addition, they also acquire data analytics in terms of purchase behavior at the store level.”

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“At the end of the day, everyone is a consumer. The fact that the Philippines is a major sachet market is testament to this. Smaller bite sizes but high purchase frequency – this is why our sponsors like our model because it is consistent with the target audience they want to reach.”

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In the Philippines, high-speed internet costs about $57 monthly, more than the United States, Forbes reported. Lorenzo Ereneta, a development student from Manila expressed his frustration:

“I actually feel frustrated that I get so little for the price I pay.”

However, he remains hopeful:

“I hope that one day, some foreign assistance will come to help with our seeming lack of Internet gateways. Until then, I hope that providers stop taking advantage of their monopoly and at least offer cheaper internet.”

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As per Akamai’s State of the Internet report for Q1 2016, the Philippines had a peak speed of 29.9 Mbps and an average speed of 3.5 Mbps. These figures are way behind those of neighboring Asian countries; Singapore had peak and average speeds of 146.9 Mbps and 16.5 Mbps, while South Korea had them at 103.6 Mbps and 29 Mbps, respectively. The Philippines likewise lagged in the outlet’s report for Q4 2015.

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