‘Next-Gen’ Utility Bundles Internet with Off-Grid Solar for Customers in Africa
A UK-based “next-generation utility” is taking what Bloomberg New Energy Finance calls the “next logical step” for its business by bundling Internet access with off-grid solar for its customers in Africa.
Mansoor Hamayun, CEO and co-founder of BBOXX Ltd., said his company “can increase its average revenue per user and overall number of customers by offering Internet as an additional service to electricity under a pay-as-you-go model,” Bloomberg NEF reports. From a customer point of view, Hamayun said, the goal is to “have one sole provider for Internet, utility, and appliances”.
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The company is backed by venture capitalists and French utility Engie SA.
Electricity is a starting point,” Hamayun said. “All the infrastructure that we have to build around it then becomes the foundation for extra services—everything from logistics to call centres and customer services.”
The company is launching in Rwanda, “where customers log into the hotspot using their existing BBOXX user account, and the amount of time they spend on the Internet is added to their bill,” Bloomberg NEF explains. “Hamayun is considering expanding Internet provision into urban areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it may bundle a wifi offering together with solar energy and partner with a telecoms company to facilitate it.”
Hamayun said he sees rural Internet access as a “mass market opportunity,” giving customers the basic building block they need to make good use of devices like mobile phones.
“We are seeing evidence among certain customers that payment for Internet is equal to what they pay for electricity, so it doubles the revenue we receive,” he said. “Many customers don’t have Internet access, or cheap enough Internet, to use their appliances with. The reason for the high cost of Internet in many areas is that the overheads of managing customers are expensive. So the fact that we’ve built up an effective distribution and logistical network, call centres, customer services and billing processes—all established with our electricity offering—helps to lower the cost of Internet and other services to people.”