Google plans to debut free Wi-Fi hotspots in five Nigerian cities as part of the company’s Google Station Internet infrastructure project.
The search giant said this week that it’s partnering with Nigeria-based fiber network provider 21st Century to install the Wi-Fi hotspots in 200 different locations throughout Nigeria.
The hope is that by the end of 2019, new Wi-Fi hotspots will be operating in places like Nigerian shopping malls, universities, and transportation depots.
“Access to the Internet in Africa is growing but it’s still limited,” said Google Nigeria country director Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor in a statement. “Many internet users in Africa don’t have Wi-Fi in their homes, relying instead on the few public Wi-Fi hotspots to connect, communicate and learn.”
Google Station debuted in 2015 as a project intended to deliver the Internet to places like India that lack the appropriate technological infrastructure. In June, for instance, Google said the project reached a milestone in India where new Wi-Fi spots are now operating in 400 railway stations.
While Google Station has the potential to bring the web to places where connections may be unrealizable, it can also boost the company’s reach in those areas, potentially benefiting Google’s lucrative online advertising business.
Microsoft, for example, said in 2017 that it would open new data centers in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa in order to better deliver its Office 365 cloud-based work software tools in the regions. Meanwhile, Facebook said last year that it’s working with different telecommunication providers to install 500 miles of fiber cable in Uganda.
Google also said earlier this summer that it plans to open an artificial intelligence research lab in Accra, Ghana.
But as these tech giants expand into other countries with new Internet services or cloud data centers, they also face some challenges.
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Indian regulators, for example, criticized Facebook’s older Free Basics program to bring the web to the country, and said it was illegal because it only allowed for a select number of websites to be available.