What you need to know:
The good news is that although we still have some catching up to do, the internet as a service in Uganda, has become more accessible and a little more affordable making services such as Wi-Fi, previously considered costly, easily accessible in homes and work places
In the digital age we live today, it is close to impossible for one to go about their day without using some form of internet. Internet connection has, therefore, become an essential utility. The good news is that although we still have some catching up to do, the internet as a service in Uganda, has become more accessible and a little more affordable making services such as Wi-Fi, previously considered costly, easily accessible in homes and work places.
According to technology company, Verizon, ironically, the word wi-fi does not stand for anything. “Wi-Fi, often referred to as WiFi, wifi, wi-fi or wi fi, is often thought to be short for Wireless Fidelity but there is no such thing. The term was created by a marketing firm because the wireless industry was looking for a user-friendly name to refer to some not so user-friendly technology known as IEEE 802.11. And the name stuck,” says the tech expert. Wi-Fi is a method for devices such as smartphones, laptops to connect wirelessly to the internet using radio waves. Unlike cellular data, Wi-Fi enables different users share a single internet connection simultaneously. For those considering wi-fi installation, here is what you need to know.
Choose an internet service provider
First, choose an internet service provider. Apart from the major telecom companies, there are several firms offering internet connection. Your task is to find the one that offers quality service at affordable prices. If you have no idea where to start, ask a colleague, friend or family for referrals. Once you choose a service provider, reach out to them and you will be guided accordingly. There are primarily two connection methods used by these service providers to connect clients to Wi-Fi; the fibre optic connection and the wireless connection method.
Wireless internet connection
With the wireless method, internet is connected into a building through wireless signals. Wireless has taken hold in homes and is doing a good job. The standard is able to handle 100’s of megabytes per second (Mbps) and is greater than most people need. It has solved the problem for a small number of devices, in a small area that is connected to a connection that is slow to medium in speed. But it might not be able to support more than 10 people trying to access a high bandwidth application. This means that while the wireless connection enables us to enjoy internet without tripping over wires, they cannot replace cable connection for the long haul or data intensive applications. Carriers already have to split sites into zones to prevent overloading the total cell capacity in suburbs and urban environments.
According to Atuhaire Amanya, the brand and marketing manager, at Roke Telkom, a site survey is done first by the internet service provider to find out if the client’s location would be able to pick up internet signals from the service provider’s base station within the area.
“We carry out this site survey remotely, using a system we created, during the Covid-19 lockdown. Once the customer provides a pin location, we put it into our system and carry out the survey. If the site survey is positive, we create an account for the customer, which they use to pay for installation fee and for the internet bundle of their choice. Ours is a prepaid service, so once you pay and the money reflects on your Roke account, an installer is sent to your premises within 48 hours. The installation fee caters for outdoor unit, indoor unit (router), cabling and the labour,” Amanya explains.
The installer sets up two devices, the outdoor unit (receiver), which is strategically mounted outside the building, and an indoor unit (router), which is set up in the house connected to a power source. The outdoor unit or receiver, picks up the network internet signals from the service provider’s base station within the area, where other subscribers are connected.
There are a few instances where a customer cannot be connected to broadband internet. This is usually because of absence of the service provider’s base station in the area or because there are geographical interferences within the location that block the receiver’s ability to pick the internet from the service provider’s base station.
Costs will vary depending on your internet service provider.
Roke Telkom has offers such as free internet from 7pm to 7am on weekdays. Free internet on weekends and public holidays. Free internet for meeting and education Apps such as Zoom, Google Meet, Google Classroom. Broadband internet packages are sold according to the number of gigabytes (GBs).
Roke fibre bundles on the other hand, are sold according to the internet speed that is megabytes per second (MBps) at a fee of Shs 300,000.
Perks include a free starter bundle of 51 GBs for the first one month. This bundle is also meant to help customers find out which bundle suits them best. You are required to buy the Airtel broadband starter pack for Shs350,000 the broadband pack contains an outdoor unit, indoor Unit (router) plus a simcard which is inserted in the outdoor unit. Installation is free.
The MTN service
To sign up for MTN WakaNet Max, visit an MTN centre with your national identification or passport (for non-Ugandans) and register for MTN WakaNet Max. The MTN starter kit costs Shs245, 000. Since it is a ready to connect device, all you have to do is plug it into a power source and you are connected to the internet. You can connect up to 32 different devices including smart TVs, gaming consoles, laptops and smart security cameras. The packages include 20GB for Shs55, 000, 40GB for 85,000, 85GB for Shs170,000, and 195GB for Shs335,000.
Zuku has internet only package which is installed at no cost. “All you have to do is pay for the monthly internet package of your choice and an installer will be sent to your premises. They will create a Zuku account with different payment options available. Installation occurs within 48 hours after payment,” says Ian Kalali a fibre technician.
Fibre optic connection
Here, internet is directly connected to your house through a fibre cable running from the service provider’s booster in the area just as you would electricity. The difference between wireless and fibre is the transmission. With wireless, internet moves through wireless signals picked up by outdoor unit (receiver) from the base station while with fibre the internet network is transmitted through fibre cables. A fibre cable is mounted onto poles, which are set up around the customer’s premises onto which the cables are mounted. A Wi-Fi router is also set up indoors which everyone uses to access the internet. Ian Kalali, says a fibre technician from Zuku, fibre is more reliable than broadband in the long run, because fibre is neither affected by geographical topography of an area, nor heavy winds or rain.