THIS PAGE IS OUT OF DATE: Click here for the current Tanzanian mobile bundle data.
The cost of internet has been dropping dramatically in East Africa, since even before the advent of the undersea fibre-optic cables which came in 2011. There are now a lot of options for visitors and residents; this article focusses on the costs of access for mobile access via the cell networks, using handsets or USB modems. Two years ago it was unthinkable to rent a movie on iTunes (data cost $200 for a 1.2GB film, taking days) – now you could do the same for $4, and even start watching it within 90 minutes.
Most handsets use internet automatically these days, or require minimal setup. Using internet without subscribing to a ‘bundle’ (data and time-limited pre-paid connection) is fairly pricey, typically 150-200 TSH/MB – subscribe to a bundle and you’ll pay at least 80% less, or as much as 97% less!
USB modems for your laptop are very convenient, and typically cost 25,000/- (keep an eye out for specials).
Deciding on a bundle, given the 38 options from the five major cell providers, can be a bit tough … many users may find that they are limited by what is available at their location. In choosing the best and cheapest option, you’ll need to consider:
- How much data are you likely to need? If you’re using your handset for email and internet and Skype, you’re unlikely to need more than 200MB in a month. If you watch YouTube all the time and download lots of GIS data you could easily use 1,000MB (1GB) in a day. In general, the larger the bundle you buy the cheaper the cost per unit.
- How long will you need it for? A day? A week? The whole year?
- How much are you willing to initially pay? It’s convenient to get a 15,000/- package for a week, but has a hassle of needing recharging every 7 days; a 150,000 package might be valid for months but you run the risk of not using your allocation, losing the modem, or not being able to take advantage of the whole package due to service issues.
- This is based on data published by Tigo, Airtel, Vodacom, TTCL and Zantel as of 06th January 2012. Things change, often without notice.
- There are 33 different options available for internet from four different providers listed here. However, not all providers are available everywhere … and NOT ALL AREAS HAVE 3G OR EVEN EDGE SPEEDS!
- Test the quality of service wherever you’re based. Quality of service varies a lot, to say the least. You may find constant disconnections, data corruption during big downloads, blocked access to certain services, etc.
Cost of bundles
The Important data …
The section after this has a table of all the bundles available, but let’s look immediately at the overall picture! Here’s a chart showing the cost (TSH / MB) of the various bundles on offer in January 2012.
That’s a broad look at the whole picture – the costs per megabyte for bundles come in between 5 TSH up to 60 TSH, and you can spend up to 750,000/- on a single bundle from Vodacom! For a zoomed-in look at the more common bundles (less than 200,000 per bundle, and cheaper than 30 TSH/MB):
As you can see, most costs per megabyte come in above 10 TSH – some as high as 60! (Remember though that the standard (no bundle) rate for most networks is 150 TSH/MB). Tigo, TTCL and Airtel stand out as having the lowest (<10TSH/MB) bundles, across a range of bundle sizes.
Depending on how you use internet, there are different solutions.
|Light use during a short visit (1 week); emails, some browsing.||
For small initial payments nothing else even comes close; the next best is TTCL’s “Weekly” for 8,000/- for only 7 days validity and 1GB of data.
|Moderate use over a longer visit (up to 3 months), with lots of browsing and big attachments.||
If you don’t have huge bandwidth requirements, these are the best two options; Tigo’s per-MB price are 30% more expensive per MB but have 30 day validity and cost 30-100,000 per bundle.
|Big media (movies / GIS imagery / etc) downloads regularly – > 5GB per month.||
* WARNING: This bundle is likely to disappear soon as Airtel has been changing their bundle system to higher prices across the board!
- Ory Okolloh has a really interesting post on why we pay the prices we do for mobile internet in Tanzania.
- Niels Emmer gives a how-to on connecting with Airtel.
The data for this post is available as a Google spreadsheet. I will attempt to keep this up-t0-date as the providers change bundles.
The table following shows the 49 bundles available from the four major cellphone data providers.
Bundle = name from the provider; MB = megabytes of data provided; TSH = cost of the bundle; TSH/MB = cost per megabyte of the bundle; Validity = days the bundle lasts for. Available as a Google doc here.
|Zantel||Gold (45 days)||12,288||90,000||7.3||45|
|Zantel||Platinum (60 days)||20,480||140,000||6.8||60|
|Vodacom||Cheka Internet Plus*||150||3,000||20|
|Vodacom||Cheka Internet 30**||50||2,000||40||30|
|Vodacom||Cheka Internet 30 Plus**||250||10,000||40||30|
|Tigo||Mini Max 2-month||7,168||75,000||10.5||60|