Looking for the best internet plan in Uganda? Here’s some data for you

Office Laptop Smartphone

If you are reading this in 2017, we did an update to this story. Read: Five surprisingly good internet deals in 2017

Vodafone Uganda is phasing out its unlimited data plans, which were undoubtedly the best internet deals for individual users with heavy data needs and small and medium-sized enterprises. We assumed there would be a few broken hearts who might consider moving on to other providers with similar deals. So we put our unlimited data plan to use, and went combing through websites of the various telecom companies to see what else is there.

We did not want to restrict ourselves to unlimited plans, though, but looked at all the offerings available. This is because not all telecom networks offer unlimited plans. We also wanted to find out the different internet plans available, and the pricing of those plans.

The analysis looked at the six telecom companies that offer internet services in Uganda. We arranged the plans according to their validity periods and cost. The most common validity periods are 24 hours, one week, one month, and three months. Smile Telecom differs from its peers by offering capped plans valid for two months. Its other plans are unlimited and last for one month.

Internet speeds vary by telecom. Africell, MTN, Smile, and Vodafone offer faster, 4G LTE services, whose download speeds can range from 2mbps to 100mbps on compatible devices (Smile’s speeds – depending on your plan – range from 2-6mbps, Vodafone’s from 2-10mbps, while Africell and MTN claim to have speeds that reach 100mbps). Airtel, Smart Telecom and Uganda Telecom Limited, on the other hand, have 3G download speeds.

The speeds also vary by location. Africell’s 4G speeds are available in Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe, Gulu. MTN’s website says its 4G network is available in “Kampala and major towns across Uganda in areas including Mbarara, Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Jinja, Kasese, Moroto, Kabale, Lira, Masaka, and Mbale.” Smile’s is available in Kampala, Entebbe, Wakiso, Mukono, Mbarara, Masaka, Masindi, Fort Portal, Kabale, Gulu, Lira, Soroti, Mbale, Jinja and Tororo. Vodafone’s 4G network, on the other hand, is available only in Kampala and Entebbe.

Africell offers the most competitive plans, in both variety and pricing (all prices are in Uganda Shillings). It has nine daily plans, compared to MTN’s seven, and Airtel’s five. It also made sure to price them at just below the rates of MTN and Airtel – its 10MB bundle, for instance, costs Shs10 less than what MTN and Airtel charge.

Daily Bundles
Data Bundle Africell Airtel MTN Smart UTL Vodafone
10MB 290 300 300      
20MB 450   500      
25MB 500 500        
50MB 1,000 1,000 1,000 500 600 1,000
100MB 1,750   1,800 1,000 1,000  
120MB   2,000        
200MB 3,200   5,000 1,800    
300MB 4,500 5,000        
500MB 6,500   7,000 3,500    
1GB 12,000   13,000      

Smart says its plans are unlimited, but they subject to a fair usage policy which throttles their speed once a certain limit is reached. We used that limit as the size of their internet plans.

Weekly Bundles
Data Bundle Africell Airtel MTN Smart UTL Vodafone
50MB 1,750   1,800 2,000    
80MB 2,500 2,500        
100MB     3,000 3,000 2,000  
200MB 5,500         5,900
400MB   10,000        
500MB       10,000    
800MB 21,900          
1GB   20,000        

The stiffest competition, at least judging by number of plans, is in the monthly category. There are 20 offerings, twice more than daily plans. Africell has 14 monthly plans, followed byAirtel with 13 and MTN with 11. Vodafone, which has only one plan in the daily and weekly segments, offers five monthly plans. Smart edges out the others on affordability, while MTN has the largest data allowances.

Monthly Bundles
Data Bundle Africell Airtel MTN Smart UTL Vodafone
25MB 1,450   1,500      
100MB 4,400   4,500 4,000    
125MB 4,900 5,000        
250MB 9,750 10,000        
350MB 13,500 15,000   12,000    
500MB 19,500   20,000 18,000 14,500 19,900
525MB   20,000        
750MB   25,000        
1GB 34,500 35,000 35,000 25,000 28,000 29,900
1.5GB 44,500 45,000        
2GB 49,850 50,000 50,000 40,000   49,900
3GB 59,500 60,000 60,000   65,000  
3.5GB 75,000          
5GB 89,000 90,000 90,000 90,000 100,000 84,900
10GB 124,850 125,000 125,000 122,500 115,000 109,900
17GB   200,000        
25GB   240,000        
30GB 284,900   285,000      
50GB     350,000      
100GB     500,000      

Smile does not have daily, weekly and monthly plans; however, it is the only telecom that offers two-month plans.

Two Months
Data Bundle Smile Uganda
1GB 32,000
1.5GB 40,000
3GB 75,000
5GB 90,000
10GB 145,000
20GB 250,000
50GB 530,000
100GB 1,020,000

In the three-month category, Africell again has the most plans – ten. MTN has eight, Smart five, while Vodafone and Airtel have two respectively. MTN and Vodafone have the largest data allowances. Africell’s largest plan is Shs50,000 less expensive than MTN’s and Shs24,000 less expensive than Vodafone’s, even though the MTN and Vodafone plans have – at 100GB – allowances twice as big as Africell’s.

Three Months
Data Bundle Africell Airtel MTN Smart Vodafone
1GB 45,000   45,500 40,000  
1.5GB 50,000        
2GB 64,900   65,000 65,000  
3GB 77,500   78,000    
5GB 116,500   117,000 115,000  
6.5GB 129,000        
10GB 160,000   162,500 155,000  
20GB 300,000     290,000  
30GB 370,000   370,000    
45GB 600,000        
50GB   450,000 455,000   424,900
100GB     650,000   624,900

There are other costs we have not included in the analysis. You will need to buy a dongle or router to connect tablets, computers, and other users. The prices of these devices – which usually come with complementary data – vary by network.

Next, let’s look at unlimited internet. Vodafone’s plans, which we looked at here, were miles ahead of the competition, but you can no longer get them if you were not a subscriber by the end of August. Only four telecoms offer unlimited plans, but we could only get figures for three.

Unlimited data plans
Telecom Download Speed Validity Cap Volume Price
Africell Uganda 512kbps 1 month None 299,000
Africell Uganda 512kbps 3 months None 859,000
Africell Uganda 512kbps 6 months None 1,619,000
Africell Uganda 512kbps 12 months None 3,049,000
Smart* 512kbps 1 month None 119,999
Smart* 1mbps 1 month None 210,000
Smart* 1.5mbps 1 month None 299,999
Smart* 2mbps 1 month None 399,000
Smile 6mbps 1 month Varies 330,000
Smile 2mbps 1 month 25GB 179,000
*Does not include tax
**Uganda Telecom also offers unlimited data bundles, but they are not included on their website

We think Smile has the best unlimited data deals at the moment, followed by Smart. Smile’s 6mbps plan is especially attractive; for Shs330,000 you get 200GB at speeds ranging from 4mbps to 6mbps. The speeds drop to 2mbps once you hit 200GB, but this is still faster than the speeds of unlimited plans offered by other telecoms.

There are also several other plans that do not fit neatly in the categories above. Africell, Airtel, MTN, and Vodafone have a night bundle that can only be used between midnight and 6am; it tops out at 1GB and costs Shs2500. Airtel and MTN have bundles that can only be used to access social media websites and platforms (Whatsapp, Twitter, and Facebook). Vodafone, on the other hand, has a ‘Night and Weekend’ 10GB plan valid for a month, and can only be used between 7pm and 7am on Monday to Thursday, and 7am on Friday to 7am the next Monday.

Of course the plan you decide to go with, assuming you are after fast internet speeds, will depend on how much money you have. The capped monthly plans of the 4G providers are faster because their speeds are not limited; the unlimited monthly plans are however more affordable, but with restricted speeds. In any case, there are several more plans to choose from.

1 Comment

  1. This is a really helpful article, especially for those from foreign countries such as myself who are avid Internet users but unfamiliar with the process of getting connected, or the many providers. Thanks for compiling all this information together here! 🙂

Comments are closed.