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Ugandans reap from faster Internet speeds

Uganda and Kenya are leading Africa in the use of social media to promote business only a year after the first fiber optic cable, SEACOM that provides faster internet speeds, was switched on.

According to the 2010 Africa Telecoms Trends report by World Wide Worx, a South African technology research firm, companies in Uganda and Kenya lead in blogging, interactions and online advertisements on Facebook, twitter, MySpace, Youtube and other social media.

SEACOM has since been joined by The East Africa Marine System (TEAMs) and Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), to provide faster internet in East Africa.

A rollback to six years ago, the most renowned Internet Café’s offering high speed internet connections in Uganda were; Click at Uganda House and one at Sheraton Hotel. These entities would often witness long queues and charged higher rates since there were no alternatives.

For many people, café’s offered the only internet solution as the initial installation and subscriptions costs for a satellite and dish internet connection was prohibitive.

The most prominent ISPs (Internet Service Providers) then, were MTN Uganda, UTL and Infocom. A few years later, hotels and or restaurants offering hotspots internet connection had an edge over their competitors posting hotspots as one of their unique selling points.

With the hotspots, a user with a wireless enabled mobile device such as a laptop, smart phone could access free internet albeit relatively faster than ‘normal’ connections.

Now with fiber under grasp for the ISPs, internet speeds and costs have tremendously come down.
In inverse comparison, prices have fallen while the speeds have increased much to the delight of internet users.

Perhaps, many have forgotten, but a basic MTN USB modem in Uganda used to go for over Shs 412,000 and with a monthly subscription fee of Shs 90,000 in 2006.

With new entrants, Warid and Orange, the telecoms market was jolted with preferential price offers. The modems have since dropped to as low as Shs 70,000 and at pay-per-use basis. Warid’s unlimited internet goes for as little as Shs 60,000, although critics still question its reliability and speed.

Uganda, like the rest of the developed world became one of the first countries in Africa to enjoy the latest 4G mobile internet offered by Foris Telecom. 4G offers speeds as high as 256kps, while MTN's 3G offers speeds of up to 7Mpbs.

Losers

But not everyone is happy.
Moses Karatunga, a technician at Click Internet Café’ told The Observer that the internet revolution may have occurred and benefited their clients but is certainly pushing café operators out of business.

“From a users point of view, this is of course the desired revolution, the speeds are much faster as a 10 MB file can now be downloaded in 4 minutes or less compared to 10 minutes before the landing of the fiber,” he said.

He added that the revolution offers internet providers no more than quicker and stable bandwidth connections.  “Even the reduction in connection costs is almost insignificant because we have just had only a 20% reduction for the same amount of bandwidth and yet our clientele continues to go down,” he added.

The low price bandwidth connection reduction is in contrast with what SEACOM promised before the launch in August 2009 that prices would drop by 75%. SEACOM had also predicted a 45% fall in international bandwidth costs.

fkisakye@observer.ug

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