Comparing Tanzanian mobile internet costs

 

Updated: January 2013

Some big changes over the past year: Zantel and Vodacom now have smaller bundles available at less than 4 shillings per megabyte!

This page will be updated regularly with current internet costs in Tanzania, and some instructions on how to connect. Bundles change a lot, and the providers seem to have difficulty updating their webpages or communicating the conditions of subscriptions, so we will attempt to help out here.

You probably came here to find the cheapest bundles … read the sections following for the details, but here’s the scoop:

  • Best value under 10,000: Vodacom, Tigo and Zantel all have bundles less than 5,000 and give good value at 10TSH/MB or less.
  • Best value under 50,000: Tigo and Zantel’s bundles – 5GB @ 20,000/- (3.9 TSH per MB)
The last two give the best value of any bundles – amazingly, even if you spend 140,000 or so for the largest bundles, the smaller ones come in cheaper!
Airtel’s ‘internet’ bundle for 2,500/- is no longer on our list as it is not a ‘standard offering’ – it is STILL available on some accounts if you send ‘internet’ to 15444, but seems to have been blocked on all recent SIM cards. If you have an old line and used it before, it’s probably still working.

Background

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 $5, 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 TSH/MB – subscribe to a bundle and you’ll pay at least 80% 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 05th August 2012. Things change, often without notice, but we will attempt to keep this page up to date.
  • There are many 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!
  • The providers have more packages available than are listed here. Here we cover those that provide at least 3G speeds and area available in all regional centres.
  • 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.

 

Comparing mobile internet costs

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 as of 05 August 2012.   The more you spend, the cheaper each megabyte will be:

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 150-250 TSH/MB). There are a number of low (<10TSH/MB) bundles, across a range of bundle sizes. To have a closer look at the more interesting of these smaller bundles:

All of the operators have bundles less than 10TSH/MB and less than 50,000 up front. Depending on how you use internet, there are different solutions.

Usage Suggestion
Light use during a short visit (1 week); emails, some browsing.
  1. Vodacom’s 25, 50 and 100MB bundles, and Tigo’s Day 100MB cost less than 1,000 -
  2. Zantel’s Bronze – 600MB for 4,000.
Moderate use over a longer visit (up to 3 months), with lots of browsing and big attachments.
  1. Zantel and Vodacom each have 20,000/- bundles that get you 5 gigabytes of data, each valid for a month.

This is a pretty amazing deal!

Big media (movies / GIS imagery / etc) downloads regularly – > 5GB per month. As above … there’s no real value in getting larger bundles, as the two above come in as the cheapest.

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 33 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.  

Provider Bundle MB TSH TSH/MB Validity
Airtel 25MB 25 1500 60.0 30
Airtel 150MB 150 6000 40.0 30
Airtel 250MB 250 10000 40.0 30
Airtel 500MB 500 12000 24.0 30
Airtel 1GB 1024 15000 14.6 30
Airtel 2GB 2048 25000 12.2 30
Airtel 3GB 3072 30000 9.8 30
Airtel 5GB 5120 45000 8.8 30
Airtel 8GB 8192 70000 8.5 30
Airtel 15GB 15360 140000 9.1 30
Zantel Z-Mini 50 1000 20.0 1
Zantel Z-Small 300 3000 10.0 1
Zantel Z-Regular 1024 7000 6.8 7
Zantel Z-Mono 5120 20000 3.9 30
Zantel Z-Silver 8192 40000 4.9 30
Zantel Bronze 600 4000 6.7 30
Zantel Gold 14336 90000 6.3 45
Zantel Platinum 25600 140000 5.5 45
Vodacom 25MB 25 250 10.0 1
Vodacom 50MB 50 450 9.0 1
Vodacom 100MB 100 700 7.0 1
Vodacom 150MB 150 2500 16.7 7
Vodacom 500MB 500 7500 15.0 7
Vodacom 100MB 100 2000 20.0 30
Vodacom 500MB 500 8000 16.0 30
Vodacom 1024MB 1024 15000 14.6 30
Vodacom 5120MB 5120 20000 3.9 30
Tigo Day 20 500 25.0 1
Tigo Day 100 750 7.5 1
Tigo Day 250 4500 18.0 1
Tigo Week 150 2800 18.7 7
Tigo Week 750 8500 11.3 7
Tigo Week 2048 25000 12.2 7
Tigo Month 600 8500 14.2 30
Tigo Month 3072 25000 8.1 30
Tigo Month 5120 55000 10.7 30
Tigo Month 10240 99000 9.7 30
TTCL Daily  50  1,500 30.0 1
TTCL Weekly  1,024  8,000 7.8 7
TTCL Weekly  2,048  15,000 7.3 7
TTCL Monthly  500  20,000 40.0 30
TTCL Monthly  600  30,000 50.0 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 22.0 30

 

  4 Responses to “Comparing Tanzanian mobile internet costs”

  1. I did a quick calculation on the Telenor mobile (Norwegian company) costs roaming in Tanzania. 5Gb will set you back around $13 using Vodacom, while roaming with Telenor will cost you a shocking $97.000.

  2. [...] Comparing Tanzanian mobile internet costs [...]

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