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Google's Strategy for Cornering the Indonesian Market? Free Wi-Fi

Company plans to expand Google Station service nationwide

August 25, 2017 | Telecom

Google is bringing its free Wi-Fi access project, Google Station, into Indonesia, intent on corralling the country’s newly minted internet users as early as possible. Google’s strategy is not entirely altruistic, however. The project is designed to direct users to its wide-ranging suite of online services, thereby expanding its audience for its massive digital advertising business.

Although Google Station will initially launch in a handful of cities, the project will eventually see hundreds of free Wi-Fi locations pop up around the archipelago nation through a partnership with Indonesia-based telecoms CBN and FiberStar.

Indonesia already has the largest number of internet users among Southeast Asian countries for which eMarketer publishes forecasts, estimated at 100.8 million this year. That figure will increase to 137.2 million by 2021. But internet penetration rates still remain somewhat low.

But despite the country’s growing ranks of internet users, getting online can be a painfully slow prospect in Indonesia. According to data from Akamai, Indonesia had the third-slowest average data connection speed in Asia-Pacific in Q1 2017, at just 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps). That figure trailed speeds in comparatively developed countries including Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Google Station’s expansion to Indonesia aims to rectify that problem by promising fast, reliable internet at its Wi-Fi locations. And there’s some evidence to support the idea that internet users will quickly make use of the new Wi-Fi spots.

According to a JakPat survey from February 2017, more than half of mobile internet users in Indonesia connected to Wi-Fi on a daily basis—a higher rate than those who did so via a 4G connection.

Mobile Internet Users in Indonesia Who Connect to Mobile Internet Daily, by Access Technology, Feb 2017 (% of respondents)

Mobile device users in markets like Indonesia often turn to Wi-Fi as a way to engage in data-intensive online activities without incurring high usage fees from their mobile service providers. For instance, App Annie found that 79% of mobile video streaming app traffic in Indonesia traveled over Wi-Fi, and not a mobile network, during a yearlong period concluded in October 2016.

Google has already found success with its Google Station project in India. The company first rolled the service out there in January 2016 in railroad stations operated by state-owned RailTel. It now has plans to provide free Wi-Fi in 400 stations across the country.

In a sign the project was yielding positive results for the company, Google announced plans in September 2016 to expand its Wi-Fi locations to include a slew of other locations, including bus stops, malls and cafes.

Rahul Chadha

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