9 August 2012

Tanzania: IT Backbone Drives Down Internet Costs

THE national telecommunications backbone has brought cyber revolution in Tanzania that has seen the cost of Internet connectivity drop to as little as 15 US cents a day on a prepaid service.

According to a statement issued by SEACOM Communications, the increase represents an effective drop of thousands of percentage in the cost of Internet bandwidth in the country over the past three to four years.

Ms Anna Kahama-Rupia, Managing Director of SEACOM Tanzania, noted that before 2009, between US$5,000 and $10,000 was charged for dedicated fixed-line. She said that only large businesses could afford access to broadband connectivity. Internet access for an ordinary private citizen was almost unheard of.

"Today, many Tanzanians are paying as little as $15 a month to enjoy high-speed mobile access to the Internet from their cellphones. "This includes the cost of voice calls. This has had an enormous transformative effect on education, entrepreneurship and social life in the country," stated Ms Kahama-Rupia.

Ms Kahama-Rupia stated further that change in Tanzania's telecommunications landscape can be attributed to two major factors.

The arrival of new submarine cables in the country, starting with SEACOM in 2009, and a massive effort led by the government to roll out 10,000km of national backbone crisscrossing Tanzania up to the eight countries on its borders.

"Before the arrival of SEACOM, there was just 300 Mbps of international bandwidth coming into Tanzania for the country's 45 million people. "Today, there is around 10G, a factor that has helped to bring connectivity costs down dramatically", she said.

The government's $200 million investment in the national backbone means that this international connectivity reaches into towns and cities right across the country and even brings it to the doorsteps of Tanzania's landlocked neighbours. As a result, Tanzania is becoming a major technology and communications hub for the entire region.

Just recently, the state-owned Tanzania Telecommunication Company (TTCL) was awarded a $6.7m deal to supply 1,244 Mbps of internet bandwidth into Rwanda, a transaction with benefits for both countries. Tanzania is growing its own economy while helping other countries to drive down their communication costs.

Cheaper broadband is also benefiting Tanzania's education sector, said Ms Kahama-Rupia. The University of Dar es Salaam was formerly paying $10,000 a month for 13Mbps of slow satellite connectivity. Now, SEACOM have linked it to the Internet for a fraction of the price and with enough bandwidth to support richer Web apps than the university could not afford before.

More Internet bandwidth also means that there are opportunities to reach young people in remote areas that are underserviced by schools and teachers with e-learning services at an affordable cost. Government has embraced telecommunication as part of a wider strategy to deliver electronic services including education, healthcare, and e-government to the people. It plans to do so through telecentres spread throughout the country, says Ms Kahama-Rupia.

"The impact on Tanzanian consumers and businesses has been remarkable. Before mid-2009, Internet cafes with high access costs were the only viable way for SMEs and ordinary consumers to use the Web, and even corporates and educational institutions had to strictly ration bandwidth.

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