World Mobile Token Ltd, which facilitates a mobile network built on the sharing economy, has raised $39 million in under five weeks of a public token offering.
The world mobile token (WMT), a utility token launched on the Cardano blockchain in July, sought to raise $40 million in the first five weeks, adding to $5 million that was raised in a private sale.
World Mobile, the U.K.-headquartered telecommunications group that is building the mobile network, is working to bring internet connectivity to nearly half of the population of the world still not connected to the Internet, starting in Africa.
The company’s blockchain-powered wireless mesh network – a set of devices or nodes that work together to share data and information without a centralized point of failure – aims to provide affordable internet access to communities typically ignored by traditional telecommunication service providers.
Meanwhile, the public sale of WMT is expected to kick-start the network’s sharing economy, and incentivize node operators and other WMT owners to improve services and grow the network.
“The primary role of WMT is to incentivize both token holders that want to support the operation of the network by way of delegating their WMT stake to a node operator (stakers) as well as node operators that operate their own nodes,” the company’s white paper said.
World Mobile is currently deploying equipment to 25 sites in the Tanzanian archipelago Zanzibar to give an estimated 100,000 people or more affordable access to the internet, according to Micky Watkins, chief executive officer of World Mobile Group,
Communities will be able to access the World Mobile network via “air nodes” that can be as simple as a solar panel, a pole and a wireless access point, Watkins said. By avoiding high-traffic frequencies, and using other avenues like TV white space (unused TV channels) or free-space optics, where data is transmitted through space via light, rural communities will have access to cheaper data packages, according to the World Mobile team on the ground in Zanzibar.
Any interested local business owner will eventually be able to purchase an air node for around $5,000 from the World Mobile Group to connect their local communities to the internet, Watkins said. They will also be able to earn WMT denominated rewards from transaction fees and as inflation rewards, according to the company white paper. But not in every country.
“In countries where cryptocurrency is legal, node operators will be able to receive and spend WMT; however, in countries where the regulations have not yet been established then node operators will receive their rewards in the local, stable currency,” George Cox, chief marketing officer at World Mobile Token Ltd., said in an email.
Watkins declined to comment on the token sale itself, as the World Mobile Group does not want to take part in the promotion of the token for regulatory reasons. Watkins did say the funds raised via the initial token sale will go into rolling out the infrastructure in Africa, software development and establishing partnerships.
In 2019, the organization established a solar-powered wireless air node in an isolated fishing village in the East African nation of Tanzania. According to Watkins, after the connection was established the team could not go back to the village for about nine months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With undisturbed access to the internet, the village fishermen were able to expand their customer network, said Andrew Soper, chief commercial officer at World Mobile Group. The fishermen were previously forced to dry the fish, unable to access customers to sell fresh, reducing the value of their catch by 90%, Soper explained.
“So with access to the internet, what we found was these villages, these fishermen, they were selling fresh fish and fresh prawns to Zanzibar to hotels and to neighboring towns. And what really blew us away was that they were actually exporting live crab to Europe,” Soper said.
With the success story of the fishing village and other trials involving schools in Zanzibar, combined with the newly obtained commercial license to operate in the country, World Mobile is getting ready for a commercial rollout.
“For the last three years, we’ve self-funded the rollout of several proof of concepts and feasibility studies. As of yet we haven’t gone commercial. We’ve just in the last two months acquired our full commercial licenses. And we’re now doing the first rollout,” Watkins said.
According to Soper, Tanzanian users connecting to the internet via World Mobile will also be able to enjoy more affordable data packages, with the new connections offering at least double the current amount of data per unit price locally. Users can pay for internet services with their local currency, Watkins said.
“And we expect to have at least 100,000 users before the end of this year is out [or] at the beginning of next year, in Tanzania itself,” Watkins said.
Only people located in participating countries could purchase WMT during the public sale, Cox said. Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, countries within the EU, India, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE, U.K. and Vietnam were the participating countries. Tanzania, where the initial rollout is taking place, was not on the list of countries because regulations do not allow residents to participate in token-generation events, Cox explained.
“Those who can’t purchase WMT can still earn WMT by creating a vault and sharing their referral link. (They’ll earn 2.5% on each purchase made using their link by someone in a participating country.),” Cox said.
“This is due to the regulatory requirements of token sales. Once the token sale is complete, then local business owners and users will be able to top up their wallet using local currency in the same way that they currently top up their mobile services,” Cox said.