Tanzania bandwidth costs down ‘thousands of percent’
INTERNET| Aug. 7, 2012, 3:49 p.m.
The arrival of new submarine telecommunications cables starting in 2009, paired with government investment in the national telecommunications backbone, has spurred a revolution in Tanzania that has seen the cost of Internet connectivity drop to as little as 15 US cents a day on a prepaid service.
This represents an effective drop of thousands of percent in the cost of internet bandwidth in the country over the past three to four years, says Anna Kahama-Rupia, managing director of Seacom Tanzania.
She says that before 2009, the USD5,000 to USD10,000 cost for dedicated fixed-line meant that only larger businesses could afford access to broadband connectivity. Internet access for an ordinary private citizen was almost unheard of.
Today, many Tanzanians are paying as little as USD15 a month to enjoy high-speed mobile access to the Internet from their cellphones, including the cost voice calls. This has had an enormous transformative effect on education, entrepreneurship and social life in the country, adds Kahama-Rupia.
Kahama-Rupia says that the change in Tanzania’s telecommunications landscape can be attributed to two major factors: the arrival of new submarine cables in the country, starting with SEACOM in 2009, and a massive effort led by the government to rollout 10,000km of national backbone crisscrossing Tanzania up to the eight countries on its borders.
Before the arrival of Seacom, there was just 300 Mbps of international bandwidth coming into Tanzania for the country’s 50 million people. Today, there is around 10G, a factor that has helped to bring connectivity costs down dramatically.
The government’s USD200 million investment in the national backbone means that this international connectivity reaches into towns and cities right across the country, and even brings it to the doorsteps of Tanzania’s landlocked neighbours. As a result, Tanzania is becoming a major technology and communications hub for the entire region.
Just recently, the state-owned Tanzania Telecommunication Company was awarded a USD6.7m deal to supply 1,244 Mbps of internet bandwidth into Rwanda, a transaction with benefits for both countries. Tanzania is growing its own economy while helping other countries to drive down their communications costs.
Cheaper broadband is also benefiting Tanzania’s education sector, says Kahama-Rupia. The University of Dar Es Salaam was paying USD10,000 a month for 13Mbps of slow satellite connectivity.
Now, Seacom has linked it to the Internet for a fraction of the price and with enough bandwidth to support richer Web apps than the university could before.
More Internet bandwidth also means that there are opportunities to reach young people in remote areas that are underserviced by schools and teachers with e-learning services at an affordable cost.
Government has embraced telecommunications as part of a wider strategy to deliver electronic services including education, healthcare, and e-government to the people. It plans to do so through telecentres spread throughout the country, says Kahama-Rupia.
There is a flurry of innovation underway in Tanzania’s telecommunications market, thanks to lighter regulation of the market and the new national and international cables. Mobile networks have turned themselves into major data players, innovating with services such as voice-over-IP, video messaging and video calling.
African telecommunications operator Smile Telecom recently launched mobile broadband services including live video chat and TV streaming following its deployment of the first commercial LTE 800 Mhz network in Africa.
The impact on Tanzanian consumers and businesses has been remarkable. Before mid-2009, Internet cafes with high access costs were the only viable way for SMEs and ordinary consumers to use the Web, and even corporates and educational institutions had to strictly ration bandwidth, says Kahama-Rupia.
Now, SMEs are trading on the Web, relying on instant messaging, and even using multimedia Web applications for the first time. Many large multinationals are looking at investing in the country for the first time, now that a sound communications backbone is in place. For consumers, social media, mobile banking and other applications are now a part of their everyday lives.
“The opportunities this has created – economic and otherwise – are enormous. There is reason to believe that we are just getting started. With only an estimated 2.5% of the population having access to the Internet, there is plenty of scope for growth," Kahama-Rupia says.
MORE INTERNET NEWS
BoFiNet hosts seminar on ICT projects and Wi-Fi servicesBotswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet) is set to bring together stakeholders to share information on current projects status for the Fibre-to-the-X and Wholesale Wi-Fi. Read More
Phase One of Ghana’s fibre optic project completedThe Government of Ghana has announced the completion of phase one of its national fibre optic project. Read More
2bn priced out of internet accessA new report from the Alliance for Affordable Internet shows that the price of broadband remains prohibitive for billions in developing and emerging countries, with women and rural dwellers hardest hit. Read More
Malawi internet banking soarsA monthly national payments report by Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) shows that the value of transactions of internet banking is soaring, as it has moved from US$27 million in January to US$33 million in February, representing a 22.4 percent increase. Read More
Airtel Kenya, BAKE to reward blogging excellenceAirtel Kenya has announced that it will sponsor this year’s BAKE Kenyan Blog Awards, which single out bloggers with great creative and innovative, useful and regular content and posts. Read More
Bridge Alliance, Ericsson partner to fuel the Internet of ThingsBridge Alliance, composed of 36 mobile operators from Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, has chosen to deploy the Ericsson Device Connectivity Platform (DCP) multi-domestic solution for the Internet of Things (IoT). Read More
Tigo, Jumia partner on online shoppingMobile Network Operator Tigo has entered into a partnership with online retail store, Jumia, to enable customers purchase smartphones with free 1GB data plus 1 month unlimited music and six months double data for every top-up. Read More
CEC Liquid Telecom launches FTTH in ZambiaCEC Liquid Telecommunications Limited has launched its Fibre To The Home (FTTH) service, over which homes and businesses of all sizes can access superfast broadband with unlimited data packages. Read More
MEA IoT market to boom in 2015The Internet of Things (IoT) market in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (CEMA) region is taking off. Although still nascent, it is growing rapidly and offers considerable potential for the rest of the decade, according to IDC. Read More
Telstra taps Internet Solutions’ network for South Africa expansionTelstra today announced the launch of a new Point of Presence (PoP) in Johannesburg, increasing its network footprint in South Africa and providing greater connectivity and redundancy options for businesses operating across the continent. Read More
FEATURED STORY2bn priced out of internet access
A new report from the Alliance for Affordable Internet shows that the price of broadband remains prohibitive for billions in developing and emerging countries, with women and rural dwellers hardest hit.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHKenya’s digital TV battle hots up
Kenya’s journey to Digital TV broadcasting took a new turn this week, when the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK) accused three local media firms of intent to disrupt the process.