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