Good news for tourists and business visitors to Uganda, who can already at the International Airport in Entebbe pick up a Sim card to enjoy local tariffs when making calls while in Uganda or else buy a USB modem and connect to the Internet on the go wherever they move in the country.
The leading Ugandan mobile phone companies have started to respond to the availability in the market of added, if not excess capacities, since the connections to the various fiber-optic networks have taken place last year. One of the market leaders, Uganda Telecom, has progressively reduced their monthly access charge to connect to the Internet on their 3G network from initially a US dollar-pegged figure payable in shillings to a fixed shilling rate now standing at 80,000 UShs per month with unlimited access. The necessary gadget, a USB modem, presently sells for a mere 150,000 UShs, compared to 300,000 UShs at the launch of the product two years ago.
Other providers like Zain, formerly known as Celtel and soon to be part of the Indian Bharti Group with yet another name change in the pipeline, have made their USB modems the most affordable in the market at 53,000 UShs, and they now also offer daily and weekly access rates, an important feature for visitors to the country from abroad, who want to or need to stay connected but do not require a full monthly subscription. MTN, Uganda’s largest mobile network, has reportedly not yet changed their pricing structure but is according to usually well-informed sources actively considering a market move in the light of what their competitors are doing. They are reportedly also looking into higher connection speeds and pro rata tariffs on a daily or weekly basis, as presently they also only offer monthly access packages.
These efforts must be seen as providing very important flanking measures for in particular tourist visitors to Uganda, who come for the country’s biodiversity, intact ecosystems (by and large anyway), and to see the fabled wildlife, raft the Nile, do horseback safaris along the Nile and at Lake Mburo National Park, or climb the Mountains of the Moon. For them, these extras available in Uganda like affordable communication services, do make a difference, and the local telecom companies ought to be thanked for that effort, on behalf of us Ugandans but also on behalf of our growing numbers of visitors.