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Kenya’s Prepaid Mobile Internet Shootout.

Forget all the amazingly low voice and sms offers that Kenya’s four mobile networks have been promoting over the last year or so. At the end of the battle, what became obvious is that subscribers had grown by leaps and bounds but the average revenue per user (ARPU) had dropped significantly. To this end, Safaricom, Zain, Orange and YU have had to change tact and are now aggressively pushing their data offerings.

The interesting intrigue in all of this mobile data frenzy of offerings is that Safaricom is still the only mobile network in the marketplace that has 3G whilst the other three mobile networks are only offering GPRS and EDGE services which are significantly slower. This prompted me to do some additional research to see what each mobile network in Kenya is offering and how much they charge. The results, are as follows:

YU

YU is the newest of all the mobile networks in Kenya. They have a tough road a head of them as all the previous entrants have had time to build their respective subscriber bases substantively. Therefore, its no suprise that they finally (officially?) launched their GPRS/EDGE prepaid mobile internet services last week at one of the lowest rates in the marketplace. YU is offering its prepaid internet services at a fixed rate of Kes. 3.00 per megabyte. The interesting characteristic of this offer is that there is no bundle required to access the rate. It will be interesting to see how YU performs with its offer in the coming months since its a cost-effective pay-as-you-go service that would make it appealing to most Kenyans.

Safaricom

Safaricom has been aggressively marketing its various 3G data bundles for the past year or so. However, at the same time, the 3G data rates have been dropping significantly since they started marketing the service. I have personally been on Safaricom’s 3G for the past couple of months and what a revelation it is! Its fast, really fast compared to any other Internet service I have used in Kenya to-date. However, the limited use data bundles are kind of pricey and as a result one is always cautious of how much internet they are using. As things currently stand, Safaricom has the following bundles:

  • 300 megabyte bundle for Kes. 999.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 3.33
  • 700 megabyte bundle for Kes. 1,999.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 2.85
  • 1 gigabyte bundle for Kes. 2,499.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 2.44

However, the rate per megabyte goes to up Kes. 8.00 per megabye when one exhausts their bundle.

Orange

Orange has the widest range of internet access offerings based on its GSM, CDMA, EVDO and Fixed Line services. For the purposes of this comparison, I have focussed on their prepaid Internet Everywhere offering which has a “bundled” approach similar to Safaricom although its GPRS/EDGE based. The default rate outside the bundles is fixed at Kes. 7.00 per megabyte which is not bad at all. The following are the Orange Internet Everywhere bundles:

  • Daily bundle is 50 megabytes for Kes. 150.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 6.00
  • 50 megabyte bundle for Kes. 250.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 5.00
  • 100 megabyte bundle for Kes. 450.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 4.50
  • 250 megabyte bundle for Kes. 850.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 3.40
  • 2 gigabyte bundle for Kes. 2,000.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 1.00

Zain

Zain has been in the marketplace almost as long as Safaricom has. Therefore, its surprising to see that they have not yet upgraded their network to offer 3G yet and they are still using the GPRS and EDGE standards for their internet services. I am not certain as to how up to date their web site is but I just checked and their prepaid offer for mobile internet is Kes. 20.00 per megabyte (is this really correct?) which would make them the most expensive mobile network in the country for the prepaid mobile internet user.

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16 Comments

  1. May 2, 2009 at 10:35 pm — Reply

    thanks for posting this, great information. – interested to know more about oranges offering and speeds. from my experience here EVDO networks are superior to GSM 3G in terms of speed.

    the cost of bandwidth is crazy though, im looking at it as a developer, for example i use maven to do some builds on one of the projects i work on, maybe i downlaod 100MB of libraries during a single build – so i can see how this will/could change the game for me in Kenya.[a single maven build of sakai could cost me around 500 shillings – now thats crazy]

    On the other and im trying to figure out why the charges are so high – is it the the satelite link ? – why not then have 2 separate charges for local data and international data hence encouraging local content [im just trying to think out the box]

  2. May 3, 2009 at 7:13 am — Reply

    Quite revealing article. Louis thought of separate charges for local and international bandwidth rather interesting! Luck of such segmentation is may explain why KIXP has not quite had an impact!

    Any idea which locations in around the country are already served by Safaricom 3G?

  3. May 6, 2009 at 1:51 pm — Reply

    Zain charge 10 bob per mb though i dont know how they have implemented their network because using their network gives an Impression that they charging 20 bob or more. They also got an unlimited (and very slow) bundle at 3999 per month which comes with a bound contract.

  4. May 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm — Reply

    @gmeltdown, thanks for the clarification on Zain’s mobile internet rates. If its Kes. 10.00 then its still pricey! But some friends say the unlimited package is not bad for as you login at night and other low traffic moments during the day.

  5. Cornell
    June 16, 2009 at 4:34 am — Reply

    Thanks for this eye-opening article. However, I am puzzled. I bought the Orange data bundle (50 MB for Kes 250), I have used it for about 3 weeks now and have downloaded/transferred data that’s more than 100MB in my sessions, without restrictions.
    PS: I am using a smart-phone as a modem to connect to my laptop. My question is how come? Or what does it mean Kes 5 per MB? Is this the data transferred or something else? Help me understand please.

  6. […] per megabyte. Full details of the various bundles on offer for Internet Everywhere can be found here in the posting I made some months ago on this blog. Bookmark and ShareClose this WindowBookmark and […]

  7. June 22, 2009 at 5:29 am — Reply

    Zain is the only mobile internet provider offering a fixed monthly rate for unlimited transfer of 2G/EDGE (0.24Mbps). Their services however vary from antenna to antenna. Some do not even prioritize between data and voice traffic and the 12 month subscription is non-refundable and comes with no availability warranty at all. If you are close to an antenna that offers you reasonable speeds this is a good budget option though (you can leave your computer on at night for downloads).

    Safaricom is the most reliable and the only one offering true mobile broadband 3G/HSDPA (7.2Mbps) in selected areas (Nairobi, Naivasha, Mombasa confirmed). They market themselves heavily though and in some areas where 2G/EDGE (0.24Mbps) is the only option there are so many users on the same antenna that the bandwidth is very poor.

    I did not know that Orange offers package bundles. Thank you for that! Unfortunately Orange has selected a slower (and cheaper) solution than Safaricom. Their technology 2/2.5G CDMA/EVDO can work at a variety of speeds from 0.1Mbps to 2.4Mbps. A look at their website gives me the information that they use 0.15Mbps in most areas and 1.8Mbps in some areas. I have never gotten anything more than 0.15Mbps though.

    That’s just a little extra info. And remember all speeds are theoretical! In practice you would have to be the only user for the antenna and climb up to the top of it to ever get 7.2Mbps with Safaricom HSDPA 🙂 If you are lucky you can reach speeds of 2Mbps.

    Also worth noting is that bit (b) the term used for data transfer and Byte (B) the term used for data storage are two different things. 1 Byte is equal to 8 bits. This means that 7.2Mbps equals 0.9MBps. And 2Mbps equals 0.25MBps.

  8. June 22, 2009 at 5:39 am — Reply

    @Cornell – once your bundle is finished you probably go back to using the normal fee of 7 Kes per MB. So check how much credit you have left 🙂 The 50MB bundle is valid for two days.

    “Daily bundle is 50 megabytes for Kes. 150.00 with a per megabyte rate of Kes. 6.00” – I did not get this one. Wouldn’t per MegaByte rate be 3 Kes?

  9. June 29, 2009 at 12:19 pm — Reply

    Orange updated their website and removed the 2,000KES bundle … 🙁

  10. M T Kariuki
    September 11, 2009 at 9:25 am — Reply

    Zain has just announced the Prepaid internet bundles *180# to subscribe

  11. October 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm — Reply

    Im using Sun Broadband, it has a good connection around this Area. Not very sure if it would be the same at some other parts of the Metro.

  12. moses ahao
    October 29, 2009 at 2:19 pm — Reply

    what are the telkom rates if yoy have the quicktel

  13. moses ahao
    October 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm — Reply

    what are the telkom rates if you are using quicktel handset

  14. DAve
    March 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm — Reply

    i am getting download speeds of 850Kbps with orange evdo in Kisumu. Can anyone tell me why I can test the speed with internetfrog but only register the download speed the upload speed only ever records an error. is it too slow to register or is there something to do with EVDO that doesn’t allow the speed test?

  15. August 11, 2010 at 8:21 am — Reply

    I bought a CDMA modem using Orange Kenya sim card,but after installation, i got a no internet connection message. what could be the problem?somebody pls help

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