With more than 50% of Nigerians lacking access to affordable and reliable Internet broadband, Fiam WiFi which seeks to provide affordable internet to the country’s underserved population is on to something remarkable.
In this interview, Fiam WiFi CEO, Akin Marinho reveals how his firm intends to reach so many people with hotspots and why he thinks the business would thrive despite stiff competition.
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Akin Marinho. I was born on Lagos Island. My family is from Lagos Island. I was educated in the UK from an early age. I have degrees both graduate and post graduate from several universities in the UK. I have 25 years legal, investment banking and private equity experience gained from working in the United Kingdom, the US and Nigeria. I retired from Banking as a Deputy General Manager.
Tell us about Fiam Wifi: when it was established, its business, employee strength, head office etc.
Fiam WiFi is one of Nigeria’s newest telecommunications companies, providing internet via hotspots to high density lower income communities and rural communities. We were licensed by the NCC in 2018. We have about 50 employees and our registered office is in Lekki.
So, aside from Ajegunle, which other areas of Lagos do you have in your target and which states do you intend to expand into?
We have launched in Ajeromi-Ifedolun LGA and plan to roll out more hotspots after we complete our pilot. Our roll out plans after AJegunle are as follows:
Phase 1: Amuwo Odofin, Alimosho, Apapa. Phase 2: Surulere, Lagos Mainland, Oshodi &Isolo. Phase 3: Shomolu, Mushin and Kosofe, ikeja and Agege. Phase 4: Ifako Ijaye Lagos Island, Badagry, Ikorodu and Ojo.
We are in discussions with a number of state Governments to offer state wide internet by creating a hybrid network using different technologies. We also provide enterprise solutions to multi-tenant buildings and corporate clients. We are also in advanced discussions with a number of educational institutions to provide campus wide coverage.
I understand each of your hotspots covers a radius of 100 meters. How many hotspot service points do you reckon you will need to cover the entire Ajegunle/AJIF area? How realistic is it and how soon do you intend to complete the entire area?
Our network is built on two fundamental principles – capacity and coverage. Once fully built in AJ which should take us a couple of months to roll out we will have about 300 hotspots which is able to hold about 100,000 concurrent users at broadband speeds.
We aim to cover the entire local government with hotspots. We have an agreement with the local government to provide Internet to every primary school in exchange for hosting our equipment.
We have seen Internet service providers which offer very affordable data run out of business when they become too overwhelmed. How does FiamWiFi intend to avoid such a fate?
As I said earlier, our network is built to hold 100,000 concurrent users which equates to about 10% of the population of AJ being on our network at the same time. In addition we will provide a dedicated amount of bandwidth to AJ.
The big players like MTN, Airtel, Glo and even Spectranet and Smile are all competitions for FiamWiFi. What edge do you think you have over them? How do you plan to rise above this competition?
We are community-driven and all our customer engagement team members and our maintenance team members are all residents of the community that we operate in. Everyone who works for us in AJ typically grew up in AJ.
Our pricing is our unique selling point. Whereas if you buy for example from a mobile operator 500MB the cost is on average N2/MB.
Whereas if someone buys 10GB from that same mobile operator they pay on average 50 kobo per MB. This means that the average Nigerian who earns the proposed minimum wage per month is being penalised for those small purchases as they are unable to spend N10, 000 at a go. This is really unfair for lower income earners who make up the majority of Nigerians. Our pricing is simple clear and transparent and starts at N400/1GB. Which is 40 kobo per MB. In addition our data prices come with one simple condition – no validity or expiration period. So whereas with other providers you may get 100MB being valid for a day or for a specific time of the day. We don’t have such restrictions.
A fast affordable and reliable Internet service should be for everyone and not restricted to higher income earners or to highbrow areas.
For now, the method of subscribing to your service is through an agent. This may not be very convenient for potential customers. Is there any plan to improve on it?
We have a sales team in Ajegunle covering each of the different communities within AJ. We have a sales team in Tolu, Olodi Apapa, Boundary, Ago Hausa, Mba and Wilmer to name a few. We don’t believe in reinventing the wheel.
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