In today’s digital ecosystem, telecommunication has become the foundation for businesses, governments, communities, and families to seamlessly connect and share information.
Unfortunately, access to the internet is still patchy across the African continent. Only 43% of Africa is on the internet, which is approximately 590 million of the population of 1.37 Billion.
Nevertheless, the last decade has seen great strides in improving telecommunications in the region.
Nigeria in particular is one of Africa’s largest telecom markets, benefiting from being the second largest economy on the continent.
Today, the country with population of 211.4 million has the highest number of users at 154 million and 73% internet penetration, according to Internet World Stats, December 2020
One company really positioned to disrupt this market is Tizeti launched 7 years ago. Yes. Tizeti came on stream at the time many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are dead or dying.
The ISP has discreetly leveraged the large wireless capacity available with Wi-fi and plummeting cost of solar panels to create a low CAPEX/OPEX network of owned & operated towers to offer disruptive, customer-friendly pricing for unlimited internet service right across Africa.
The maiden Tizeti NeXTGEN conference held in Lagos last week; from start to end every minute spent was gained. We learned a lot of things the company has engaged in to address the perennial issues around Internet service provisioning as fundamental human right; Openess, Accessibility, Multi-stakeholder engagements/participation and Cross-cutting indicators that underpin the evolution, growth and development of Internet in West Africa in line with the 38th UNESCO General Conference of November 2015 endorsed Universality of the internet dubbed ROAM-X.
The conference was like salt to a chef as Tizeti, a fast-growing wireless Internet service provider in West Africa, demonstrated intent to widen the broadband envelope with more robust internet plans, expanding coverage, especially in Nigeria and Ghana
Truly, anybody can provide data capped Internet, but providing unlimited internet is difficult, and then doing it in an affordable way that’s 30 to 50% cheaper than data capped plans is difficult. This is where Tizeti’s wizardry comes to play.
The company also cares about the environment; “climate change is real and that informed part of our operations with the solar power towers”, said Kendall Ananyi, the CEO of Tizeti. “And the good thing is when we are operating our towers we’re shifting away from the main industry, which has basically focused on colocation in the last couple of years, even though there is a telecom infrastructure deficit in Africa”.
Now, the team have figured out how to achieve this with their proprietary technology that allows them to do it with low CAPEX.
Interestingly, Kendall and his team are doing this with the four consumer-focused brands, namely; Wifi.com.ng, that focuses on the mid-market, small businesses, and residential customers, at the bottom end of the market. They have partnership with Facebook Express Wifi that provides very low cost internet data plans and also provides additional income for the retailers.
Tizeti also has Voice product, which is actually three things in one; it’s an app that gives you unlimited calls, it’s a platform for managing the calls, and it also has a set of APIs for developers to extend the features.
In 2019, Tizeti expanded into Ghana, with Ghanawifi.com, and in six months, “if you Google unlimited internet in Ghana, Ghanawifi is at the top of the Google rank”. Did you just wink a smile? Yeah, the guys deserve some accolades.
“The market for unlimited internet is huge. Just in Nigeria alone, which is the most populated country in Africa, you have two states that are both 10 million in population and about six states where you have 6 to 10 million, and we’re just only in four states, and the population has grown”, Kendall said.
In the last one year, population has grown 2.6%, mobile phone usage has grown 10%, but the internet usage due to the pandemic and the new normal, has grown 22%.
The company was launched formally to the public in 2014, as Wifi.com.ng. The team bootstrapped with no capital investment or any investors and got to $1 million revenue rate and had about 5000 customers, and then went through Y Combinator; the prestigious accelerator that funded companies like Paystack and Flutterwave. “We then, on the back of the Y Combinator demo day raised a seed round of $2.1 million, which was the largest announced seed round at that time”, Kendall recalled as this marked a big turn-around for Tizeti.
Later that year Express Wifi was launched to target the bottom of the market, which makes sense because as a ‘sachet economy’, you can’t build a large business in Africa by serving only the mid-market. The next year with the seed round, Tizeti’s revenue tripled, before the team consulted and then raised a Series A of $3 million bringing total raised to $5.1 million.
They also grew from 5000 users to 200,000 registered users in a year.
And in the next year, because they’re expanding so much the team secured LTE spectrum and launched the ever super LTE network in multiple States (in Nigeria) and then moved on to set up Ghanawifi. That year, the user base grew to 1.8 million users, and by this year (2021) they have reached 2 million users.
The amazing thing here at they’ve done this with a 100% Nigerian staff; “there is no expatriate in Tizeti”, the CEO said confidently.
Tizeti’s metrics speak for itself; they have 10,000 voice lines, 2 million users. And just last week, they delivered 180,000GB a day, which is 180 terabytes.
Last year, the team were clinking glasses in celebration of 100 terabytes which took them six years to get to achieve. But with the pandemic and new normal, they have almost doubled that.
To put it in perspective, 180 terabytes is a lot with four States.
Tizeti and partners
Like they say, “If you want to go far, go alone, but if you want to go farther, go together”, Tizeti’s coasts have obviously enlarged thanks to the great partnerships.
For a start, they are backed by Y Combinator and also received backing by WTI. They also backed by social capital which led the SPAC revolution in the last one year. In Ghana, Tizeti partners with CSquared to provide fiber to its towers.
“We also have integrated with payment providers; we are integrated with Paystack, we are integrated with Quickteller, Remita, and across Africa with Flutterwave. We are banked in Nigeria and Ghana with Zenith and also in Nigeria with that same brand. And we are audited in Nigeria and Ghana by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)”, the CEO explained.
How Tizeti plans to expand
Tizeti plans to expand across Africa using Venture Capital model. How? So, in a bid to enable more Africans to take advantage of digital offerings in a new world defined by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company announced its partnership with a $5 million venture fund focused on African startups – ISPs – with an aim of expanding internet access across Africa.
According to Ikenna Uche, the chief technology officer, the company will leverage its proprietary OS technology, global partnerships with equipment vendors, submarine cable companies, payment providers, and Venture firms to provide the resources for these startup ISPs to accelerate the availability of unlimited internet across the continent.
Successful startups will participate in a 3-months programme with at Tizeti’s location in Nigeria or Ghana where they are expected to gain the knowledge and expertise to rapidly launch affordable internet services in their respective countries.
Recall the playbook developed for Ghana made Tizeti number one (in Google ranks), and will now expand across Africa, aggressively. Then, obviously, the company is one of the first few startups to have hit a million users a long time ago, and with that, obviously, the customer-care service has to pick up.
Kendall and his team demonstrated great understanding of the need to care and carry customers along through the deployment of next generation type of customer service – a smart, interactive voice response system.
They also introduced a different type of one time passwords to SMS Pin using voice.
One of the most intriguing sessions was Tizeti’s demo of the next generation WiFi. This is an ISP that has successfully deployed both the Wi Fi and LTE networks.
During the session participants had a glimpse of what the next generation of WiFi looks like. It was mind blowing see Tizeti demonstrate this technology.
Moving on, they also introduced two partnerships with two top FinTech startups – Aella Pay and Kudi.
So, Tizeti is expanding within Africa; and within Nigeria, they’ve been in four States and in the next quarter, they’re going to 10 States and 14 cities, taking its affordable, unlimited internet to those cities.
“We are expanding our unlimited internet plans, currently available in cities in Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Edo States, to Abuja, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, Warri/Asaba, Eket/Uyo, Onitsha, Aba, Enugu, and Calabar. We are building brand-new, solar-powered, 4G-capable towers in these cities and leveraging expansive fiber-networks built by some of our partners, to enable us to roll out our low-cost broadband service, and bring millions of people online, who can now take advantage of the life-changing socio-economic opportunities that access to the Internet provides,” Kendall said. And you can sign up now HERE
From the foregoing, for many countries in Africa, there is still a huge digital divide. Tizeti is playing a significant role in addressing this digital infrastructure deficit with innovative technology and capabilities, to improve development outcomes for millions of people, with better outcomes for employment, education, family and social life, and access to information.