Philippines startup WIN gets Microsoft funding, to install 10,000 WiFi hotspots

From left are Microsoft Philippines legal & corporate affairs director Raul Cortez, country manager Karrie Ilagan, WiFi Interactive Network CEO Jasen Ko, and the startup's president and founder Philip Zulueta.

WiFi Interactive Network (WIN), a Philippines-based startup, has secured a $150,000 grant from software giant Microsoft Corp with which it intends to install 10,000 WiFi hotspots in the country using TV Whitepace (TVWS) technology.

Incorporated in March 2015, WIN’s business model is to provide internet connectivity to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by exploiting TVWS or usage of vacant TV channel frequency to anchor the connectivity of its “sponsored WiFi” hotspots. TVWS converts vacant TV frequency to WiFi signal that can travel up to 10 km with speeds of up to 10mbps.

WIN works on a subscription model where large advertisers pay them a monthly fee for providing a Purchase-for-Access model through WIN’s WiFi hotspots.

WIN president and founder Philip Zulueta explained to DEALSTREETASIA that sponsored WiFi is a scheme to provide connectivity to the mass market, especially in developing countries, that clearly have affordability issues.

Also Read: Philippine TV White Space tech initiative bags US P3 impact award

He said, since consumer goods companies benefit from consumption, WIN decided to bundle free WiFi with the purchase of consumer products.

“End users, consumers, get Free WiFi access upon purchase of a sponsoring brand’s products,” Zulueta said. “For example, if the consumer buys a packet of a sponsor’s brand of shampoo, then we give the user x number of minutes of access, usually 30 minutes. Because we generate immediate revenues for our sponsors, the model becomes sustainable. On top of this, we acquire raw data of purchase behavior and provide data analytics accordingly. The partnership with Microsoft opens up their software library for us to deliver on this.”

For this year alone, WIN intends to install base stations that will broadcast WiFi signal to areas where there is currently no internet coverage.

“We are looking to install WiFi hotspots in 300 locations. We are now rolling out in 100 bars and restaurants and are now piloting in sari-sari stores (small retail stores). The mid-term goal is to get to 10,000 hotspots within three years assuming we raise the right amount of funding,” Zulueta said.

He said, WIN is rolling out TVWS technology with Microsoft and this enables them to bring connectivity where the telco companies have coverage gaps.

Also Read: Exclusive: Philippines’ prolific investor Future Now Ventures backs five more tech startups

The serial entrepreneur cited data plan affordability as a major issue relative to income in the Philippines since 95 per cent of mobile subscriptions were prepaid.

“With blended ARPU (average revenue per user) around $3.00, telcos have a huge challenge in front of them. On the one hand, you have this exploding demand for data which requires telcos to keep investing on infrastructure while, on the other hand, the ARPU is pretty low compared to the US for instance which is at $45.92 or Hong Kong at $22.70,” Zulueta said.

WIN is one of the 12 startups partnered by Microsoft recently via its Affordable Access Initiative, which evaluated business models from all over the world to identify companies that offered promising local solutions to bridging the digital divide.

Also Read:

Philippines: PLDT, Globe acquire 50% each of San Miguel’s telco assets

Philippines Dealbook: DICT formed, e-Employment project wins international award

Philippines gets new startup incubator to promote inclusive innovation

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.