Rwanda: Internet Charges to Be Slashed
Internet users are set to enjoy cheaper rates as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) promised to slash interconnectivity fees during the first half of next year, a move that underlines the growing competition.
Rwanda has the highest internet charges in the East African region even after the landing of undersea fibre optic cables. Sam Nkusi, the Executive Chairman of Altech Stream Rwanda, told The New Times, that Rwanda needed an affordable pricing and true broadband, predicting that subscription fees would go down in first quarter of 2012.
"Prices have slightly gone down of late but they are still high compared to the rest of the region. What we want is to have them go down as those in Tanzania or Kenya," Nkusi noted.
According to Nkusi, the current internet charges range from US$300 (Rwf178,800) a Megabyte per second (Mbps) to US$700 (Rwf417,200) Mbps depending on the capacity that the client opts for.He added that as a landlocked country, internet connection in Rwanda is mostly affected by the fibre cable cuts between Kenya and Uganda. "Vandalism along the way has made most ISPs to connect to more than one cable which is costly," he said. Altech Stream Rwanda is connected to both SEACOM and EASSy submarine cables.
MTN's Marketing Operations Manager, Robert Rwakabogo explained that the current competition is expected to usher in cheaper broadband access. "On seeing new players on the market, Altech Streams, New Altel, Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC) all connected to the same undersea cables, definitely we have to scale down the subscription fees in order to compete on the market," Rwakabogo said.
Mobile data accounts for the biggest percentage of MTN's internet users with more than 495,000 subscribers compared to 1,000 subscribers on fixed internet. Rwakabogo said with connection to undersea cables like TEAMS, which runs from Kenya through Uganda as well as EASSy from Tanzania, the operator has a capacity of 5-STM1s. MTN charges Rwf21,000 on modems per month from Rwf35,000 a few months ago and Rwf1,000 per day.
The government has invested billions of Francs in fibre optic networks and waived duty on imported electronics with the hope of lowering internet costs, as a way of transforming the country into an ICT hub by 2020.
Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC) charges the highest internet rates in the country.
"The current fees end in January and after that we are introducing a new price range," Manzi Rwaka, the Senior Accounts Manager of BSC said.
BSC charges between Rwf1,080,000 per 1 Mbps and 5Mbps at Rwf4,212,000 on internet bandwidth. On Wibro service, the firm charges between Rwf20,000 and Rwf30,000 on a monthly subscription exclusive of a modem.
In Kenya, the largest telecom provider Safaricom charges between Ksh1.25 (Rwf8.2) to Ksh2 (Rwf13.1) per megabyte.