Only one person in six is online, according to a Spanish government study released early in 2002; that penetration rate lags behind even the sluggish national standard of about 20%. Only three towns in the province have access to the high-speed digital lines known as DSL. But now about 600 people in Zamora are signing on to the Web without wires through this Afitel Wi-Fi service. Afitel figures it needs 2,000 customers to reach an operational break-even, and it aims to have 3,000 by its first anniversary next September.
The Zamora project aims to create an entire “hot city” — and unlike so many pioneering technology projects in small European cities, it aims to do it as a private-sector, money-making venture, rather than as a political pork project.
With the free hardware, Afitel figures its basic cost per customer is about 60 ($62.90); that is, it costs about 600 to install an antenna that creates a hot spot to serve 10 people or so.
Citywide WiFi networks are what the emerging markets need to leapfrog from no connectivity to ubiquitous connectivity.