UPDATE 1: 02/08/2018
For over a month now the Sponsored Data portal has been down. All it returns is the message that: This device can’t be reached. It’s therefore likely that Airtel Kenya may have done away with this awesome feature.
UPDATE 2: 10/09/2018
The portal is back however the sponsored data section is missing. Perhaps this is an indication that the feature has been removed for good. Should they add it back and update will be posted here.
The portal is accessible on the new address: http://22.214.171.124/
The other day while I was browsing on my Android device, it so happened that I had exhausted my data plan. Few moments later I got an unexpected notification which I was used to getting when on Safaricom and Telkom but not Airtel.
So it seems Airtel have finally rolled out their subscriber portal which in the same vein as that of its competitors, allows you to conveniently subscribe to various products from a web portal instead of the traditional USSD codes we’re accustomed to.
That said, Airtel’s Kenya portal is unlike that of its peers. It’s more stripped down and only caters for internet bundles. From it you can subscribe to one of the Amazing Bundles plans or you can Kopa Internet.
At the end of its page however, there’s a pleasant surprise waiting. Airtel cleverly calls it Sponsored Data and as we’ve come to expect from that term, you stand to get spoiled at the exchange of some of your company.
The arrangement is very straightforward: watch a couple of seconds of your sponsor’s Ad, and with it get some free data. No strings attached. The data one gets is currently a measly 15MB 6MB for watching a 30 second Ad of one of Airtel’s products like Tubonge. Either way for that price, it’s more than welcomed. I can see myself using it should I unexpectedly run out of data and for whatever reason can’t buy the usual bundles.
Of course, watching these Ads doesn’t require you to have any existing data since the portal itself is data exempted. That is to mean that the Sign-in to Network notification will only pop up after you’ve run out of both your bundle and airtime (recall Airtel doesn’t have the equivalent of Safaricom’s or Telkom’s My Data Manager so data is automatically charged on your airtime once a data bundle is exhausted).
I should also mention this sign-in pop-up may not automatically appear on all phones such as it’s the case with my Windows Phone. You can however get around this limitation by entering the portal’s address [http://172.16.11.71/] manually on your browser. The portal should however load automatically if the data gets exhausted while browsing. This also includes on desktop browsers if it happens you’re using Airtel data on a modem/router or a tethered connection.
Now I’m not sure what’s the long-term plan here by Airtel but I presume the intention would be to bring on board Ads from other companies in the future. That is, by leveraging on their sizeable subscriber base they perhaps can interest some companies into running their ad campaigns on this platform, at a fee of course.
In return Airtel will have to part with some few MBs for everyone that decides to watch these Ads. Subtract the cost of this together with what it takes them to keep the portal up and running, and they should perhaps make some profit from selling this ad space.
The buyer of the ad space in turn gets more presence for the advertised product and sales go up and you the subscriber get your “free” bundles. At the end of it all everyone’s happy. Well, that’s me just me speculating. Nonetheless, there’s little doubt regarding the usefulness of this arrangement, especially during emergencies.