“I swear I saw my data fly when I had just loaded it… These guys have formed a cartel,” tweeted a one Aldo, a disgruntled client, who said he was tired of feeling cheated by nearly all the networks he has been on.
These kinds of frustrations are common on the different social media platforms, and go to show how the pricing and efficiency of data services have left consumers divided on who has the best deal.
The emergence of social media applications such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Hangouts and Viber Messenger, among others, have eased communication and tilted the landscape between the revenues brought in from the voice and data segments.
But just who has the best data packages, regardless of the countrywide coverage?
Over the years, telecom companies Airtel, MTN, Vodafone and Africell have rolled out 1GB data plans that can only be used between midnight and 6am for Shs 2,500.
As the competition within the telecom industry has tightened, both MTN and Airtel dropped the price to Shs 2,000.
The data deals don’t end with the late night bundles though, according to Dorothy Nabunjo, the founder of Karizmz Business, who do most of the telecom companies’ events promotion on social media.
“It’s during the day that many people are active on social media and [that’s] probably the reason internet easily slows down during that time,” she explained why she prefers the day packages.
Day plans come off as affordable but that’s only from the perspective of who is marketing which plan and at what time. All the cheaper bundles are priced the same way between the two market leaders - MTN and Airtel - both giving out 10MB, 25MB and 60MB at Shs 250, Shs 500 and Shs 1,000 respectively.
It’s, however, at Shs 2000 that Airtel seems to offer 150MB, 25MB more than MTN at the same price. Others such as Africell have used promotions to give clients more data than the competitors. For instance, the network, through their triple bundle, multiplies clients’ data by three when they buy data worth Shs 3,200.
For so much less though, at Shs 999, Smart offers a whopping 500MB for a day, 250MB for Shs 799, and 120MB for Shs 499, among others.
Uganda Telecom too is among those with cheaper bundles with 50MB at Shs 600. Other data plans are stretched to weekly, monthly and quarterly packages. For instance, MTN offers 60MB at Shs 2,000 and 700MB at Shs15,000, among others for a week.
For a comparable plan Airtel offers 100MB at Shs 2,000 and 850MB at Shs 10,000, among others. At Africell, monthly data plans include 25MB at Shs 1,400, 1GB at Shs 34,500 and 3GB at Shs 58,850, among others.
Since users of internet mostly consume data while on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, service providers have also developed special data plans to cater for that segment. For example, Airtel in the past introduced their WTF (WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook) bundle that goes for Shs 250 and Shs 500 daily.
MTN also has the same package, although it has Snapchat and Instagram thrown in. Africell, too, rolled out their SWIFT bundle at Shs 200 and Shs 500 daily, which give a subscriber data volumes of 50MBs and 200MBs respectively.
Besides the offers, clients also look out for whether they can easily top up data, share it or borrow, among other services. At the moment, Airtel allows subscribers to borrow up to 120MB worth Shs 2,000, which is paid without interest.
According to Roger Bambino, a blogger with a technology site, techjaja.com, today, internet in Uganda is good basing on where one is located. He says people no longer care about speeds when making choices of an internet provider.
“They are all fast; they all have 4G. It may all depend on your location or type of phone,” he says.
But the data game is not only about the amount of data provided. Some people are looking out for other services such as knowing the expiry time of their data packages; whether they can top up on the data and revive an expired data plan if it wasn’t used up.
“Of course some telecoms are rude; you only learn that you’re out of data when a page fails to load or when a Facebook post fails to upload,” says one Geraldine Babirye.