Free Wi-Fi as a business

World Wi-Fi is a project that provides free Wi-Fi at 5K hotspots around the world and plans to increase their number 10-fold before the yearend. Users can connect to the Internet free of charge after watching an advertisement video. Router owners earn a reward from the advertisers. World Wi-Fi’s annual revenue can reach $180 mio, World Wi-Fi CEO Ilya Yashin told Invest-Foresight.


From advertising aggregator to platform

Established by Russian IT experts Ilya Yashin and Yan Sepiashvili, Singapore-registered World Wi-Fi PTE Ltd. integrates home and public Wi-Fi access points into a worldwide free network. Free access is organized in the usual way – by showing ads to Wi-Fi users. Yashin and Sepiashvili are not new to the business. They have an advertising aggregator on public Wi-Fi networks, Adrenta, and a Wi-Fi identification platform for public networks, Radius WiFi. Adrenta allows advertisers to show ads on Wi-Fi networks at airports, educational institutions, restaurants and hotels, etc. Along with Russia, the company also operates in Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and other CIS countries. The network currently comprises 5K WAPs in 80 cities. Radius supplies software for user authorization on public Wi-Fi networks by entering their phone number, as well as additional marketing opportunities. Adrenta is owned by Wi-Fi Media Partner, its sole shareholder being Darya Ryabova (according to Kontur.Focus service). Ryabova is also the general director of Radius, which is co-owned by Tatiana Pereverzeva and Ilya Yashin, 70% and 30% respectively.

By May 2018, World Wi-Fi had raised $25 mio through an ICO. Ethereum Foundation Advisor Vladislav Martynov purchased 5% of the tokens. Other buyers are companies developing Wi-Fi networks. About 100 token holders in 40 countries are World Wi-Fi ambassadors who connect to the company’s platform, broadcast ads and make money by providing their users with free Internet access. One of them, the owner of a local IT company in Micronesia, plans to sell ads via World Wi-Fi around the country.

Telecommunications operators seek to make money from Wi-Fi

World Wi-Fi, a global decentralized free network, provides router owners with a software that allows selling commercial ads. This year, 15 telecommunication companies (mobile network operators), including one major Russian one, are expected to provide a massive growth in the number of clients; the operators’ names will be revealed following the tests. These companies, not household routers, have become World Wi-Fi’s main clients. Often, Russian regional telecommunications operators cannot rapidly return the investment into building Wi-Fi hotspots via online ads, while World Wi-Fi will allow this to be done within several months. Today, the company has some 2,000 advertising clients, including major advertising agencies and such companies as MegaFon, Alfa-Bank, M-Video, Tinkoff, AliExpress, and others. On the average, 15% of ad views result in visiting the sites or Telegram channels, which is more than through usual online advertising.

In Russia, technology company MaximaTelecom is already selling ads via Wi-Fi in the Moscow Metro and other city public transport services. However, the company had to spend RUR 2 bln ($30 mio) to set up a network in the metro, while the investments in online ads will repay in only about seven years.

Our business model is different from MaximaTelecom’s one just like Uber is different from a taxi depot,” World Wi-Fi CEO Ilya Yashin says. “We are not building Wi-Fi networks, we are selling the app that allows making money on the ads. It is similar to Uber which does not own the taxi fleet but provides drivers with an app that allows them to quickly locate passengers.”

World Wi-Fi receives 5% from each ad. Each of several thousands of routers shows daily at least 30 ad views at weak private Wi-Fi points and up to 500 at public ones. In addition, the company collects analytic data concerning best and worst Wi-Fi points, and provides this data for free. The World Wi-Fi platform allows advertisers to choose the target audience on the basis of web search history, gender, age, social networking profiles, location (with any level of detail, including the exact address). The cost of such ads is considerably lower than the ads displayed on web search engines and social networking sites.

World Wi-Fi plans to win the market in cooperation with Keenetic, a company that produces household and office Wi-Fi routers. The companies recently signed a contract under which one of the next versions of firmware on each router will have a World Wi-Fi button.

My goal is to make sure that there are no routers without a World Wi-Fi sticker on the shelves,” Ilya Yashin said.

How to use Wi-Fi for advertising

Installing a new Wi-Fi hotspot costs around $30 and will return the investment within a couple of months thanks to user advertising. Thirty routers installed in cafes, restaurants and hotels make around EUR 1,500 daily. This is how Evonet operates, a Wi-Fi network at Costa Blanca resorts in Spain where Russian tourists can now use free Internet. World Wi-Fi’s partner, Hotelchat, is testing sales of restaurant lunches, taxi services, concert tickets and other products via its Wi-Fi chat to customers at thirty major hotels which have not been disclosed.

The hotels are increasing their revenues and ratings while World Wi-Fi and Hotelchat are making their interest from advertising and provided services. For a hotel with up to 50 rooms the chat costs RUR 5,000 ($77) per month. World Wi-Fi spends around $500 on installing the control network nucleus.

World Wi-Fi is negotiating deals with clinics, banks and cafes hoping to sell more services via mobile apps that use wireless Internet.

By Natalia Kuznetsova

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