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Cities all over the world are becoming digital—bringing people together to dream, create and innovate in new ways. Digitalization is forcing cities and business to reimagine their business models—and there has never been a better time to make cities smarter. With the explosion of the Internet, the future of mobile networks may not necessarily be with 4G and 5G over fiber, but with Wi-Fi. The Afone Group, a virtual operator based in Angers, France has launched a project called Wifilib—meaning free Wi-Fi as a continuous network in cities targeting the busiest areas.
Founded by Philip Fournier and Eric Durand-Gasselin in 1997, the Afone Group is a telecoms and electronic payments operator with an annual turnover of 50 million euros and is listed on the Euronext Paris stock exchange. The Group is structured around four areas of expertise: telecoms, digital communications, electronic payments and remote surveillance. These four activities all share the same base: telecoms. The Group has over 600 000 private, professional and corporate clients.
When 4G was introduced in 2013, Afone faced a major challenge, it needed to address the issue of increasing density and still provide free broadband Internet access in all of these areas. Data consumption continues to increase and mobile users no longer use their phones just for making calls, but as a completely separate communication tool. The Afone Group quickly realized that usage areas were no longer restricted to the home and office, but extended all throughout our communities as well. This made it vital to roll out Internet access across all of these areas.