Mobile internet costs in Tanzania

THIS PAGE IS OUT OF DATE: Click here for the current Tanzanian mobile bundle data.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.

Caveats:

  • 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.

Chart of per-mb internet costs in Tanzania

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):

Mobile internet costs per MB, zoomed in

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.

Usage Suggestion
Light use during a short visit (1 week); emails, some browsing.
  1. Airtel’s monthly “Handset” bundle* gives you 400MB for 2,500/-

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.
  1. Airtel’s Handset bundle* gives 400MB for 2,500, valid for the month.
  2. More expensive per MB is Zantel’s 45-day Gold

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.
  1. Tigo’s “Max 2 month” bundle, which is the cheapest per MB in our dataset.
  2. Tigo and Zantel have a range of other packages between 8 and 140,00 for similar cost (6.3-8 TSH/MB).

* WARNING: This bundle is likely to disappear soon as Airtel has been changing their bundle system to higher prices across the board!

Further Reading

Data

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.

 

Provider Bundle MB TSH TSH/MB Validity
Airtel 25 25 1,500 60 30
Airtel 150 150 6,000 40 30
Airtel 250 250 10,000 40 30
Airtel 500 500 12,000 24 30
Airtel 1024 1,024 15,000 14.6 30
Airtel 2048 2,048 25,000 12.2 30
Airtel 3072 3,072 30,000 9.8 30
Airtel 5120 5,120 45,000 8.8 30
Airtel 8192 8,192 70,000 8.5 30
Airtel 15360 15,360 140,000 9.1 30
Airtel Handset 400 2,500 6.3 30
Zantel Mini 40 1,000 25 1
Zantel Small 250 3,000 12 1
Zantel Regular 750 7,000 9.3 7
Zantel Mono 1,792 15,000 8.4 30
Zantel Silver 5,120 40,000 7.8 30
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* 20 500 25
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
Vodacom SPIDI7* 1,024 15,000 14.6 7
Vodacom SPIDI30** 4,608 70,000 15.2 30
Vodacom SPIDI90* 12,288 200,000 16.3 90
Vodacom SPIDI365* 49,152 750,000 15.3 365
Tigo Light Day 25 450 18 1
Tigo Light Week 125 2,500 20 7
Tigo Light Month 450 9,000 20 30
Tigo Light Day 200 3,000 15 1
Tigo Light Week 500 7,500 15 7
Tigo Light Month 2,048 28,000 13.7 30
Tigo Standard Day 35 700 20 1
Tigo Standard Week 250 4,500 18 7
Tigo Standard Month 1,280 15,000 11.7 30
Tigo Standard Week 1,024 10,000 9.8 7
Tigo Standard Month 4,096 35,000 8.5 30
Tigo Max Week 4,096 30,000 7.3 7
Tigo Max Month 15,360 100,000 6.5 30
Tigo Max 2-month 30,720 150,000 4.9 60
Tigo Mini Max 2-month 7,168 75,000 10.5 60
TTCL Daily 50 1,500 30 1
TTCL Weekly 1,024 8,000 7.8 7
TTCL Weekly 2,048 15,000 7.3 7
TTCL Monthly 500 20,000 40 30
TTCL Monthly 600 30,000 50 30
TTCL Monthly 1,024 40,000 39.1 30
TTCL Monthly 2,048 60,000 29.3 30
TTCL Monthly 4,096 90,000 22 30

8 Comments

  1. Visitors bringing their cellphones from abroad should make sure they’re not locked to their mobile provider. Some plans in Norway will give the user a fairly cheap phone as part of the plan. The caveat is that your phone is locked and you can therefore not switch sim-cards when you arrive to Tanzania.

  2. Pingback: » How to use mobile internet in Tanzania

  3. Pingback: Getting Google Docs data into R | Counting Animals

  4. Pingback: OA News: January 30 – February 2, 2012 » oAfrica

  5. Pingback: How to use mobile internet in Tanzania ‹ Niels Emmer – A Dutchman in Tanzania

Leave a Reply