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 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.
- 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.
|Light use during a short visit (1 week); emails, some browsing.||
|Moderate use over a longer visit (up to 3 months), with lots of browsing and big attachments.||
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.|
- 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 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.