By Billy Rwothungeyo
Ugandans who access Internet through MTN services will have to dig deeper into their pockets after the telecom service provider announced new tariffs, effective today.
This data price increase makes the Internet even more expensive. The high end cost of the Internet has been a huge talking point among many stakeholders in the communications industry.
Across all offers, MTN freedom bundles packages are now more costlier by at least sh10,000. Freedom bronze is now at sh18,500 from sh15,000. Freedom silver now costs sh75,000 from sh60,000, while freedom gold has gone up to sh150,000, from sh120,000.
The costs of mobile Internet bundles have also been increased. A daily bundle of 10MB is now at sh300, from sh250, while 50MB now costs sh1,200 from sh1,000.
It is not yet clear how other players in the market will respond to the development by the market leader.
Phoena Wall, the Airtel’s spokesperson, could not confirm that MTN’s biggest competitor would also revise tariffs upwards.
“We have just finished synchronising our systems. We are continuing in that line of innovation,” she said alluding to the merger of Airtel and Warid.
On Tuesday, Airtel Money officially merged with Warid Pesa into one platform.
Uganda has a lower Internet penetration when compared to neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, with many blaming the high cost of Internet bandwidth for Uganda’s dismal performance.
Uganda is currently served by the East African Marine System (TEAMS) and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), covering a 17,000km distance at a cost of more than $650m (sh1.7 trillion).
Last week, MP Bagiire Vincent Waiswa, the vicechairman of the committee on ICT in Parliament, advised telecoms to share infrastructure so as to make Internet access more affordable to Ugandans.
“The challenge we have today is that when the Government digs up a road (to install Internet cables), Orange, Airtel and MTN also dig up the same spot immediately after.
We need to find a mechanism of sharing infrastructure,” he said.
Free Internet in Kigali
As Ugandan struggles to bring down the cost of connectivity, neighbours Rwanda became the East African country to launch free wireless Internet in specific areas of the capital Kigali.
The “Smart Kigali” initiative, by the Rwandan government puts the country in the same league as Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Toronto and Taipei, which have similar arrangements.