Four of Uganda’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have consolidated their purchase of bandwidth in an effort to cut down Internet costs and make bandwidth affordable, writes Esther Nakkazi, Balancing Act’s Uganda correspondent.

The ISPs move has seen a 75 percent reduction in the rates of bandwidth purchased from them by domestic, business and school users in the country which is expected to attract mass use by communities.

The four ISPs Bushnet, SpaceNet, Africaonline and One2Net, all members of the Uganda ISP association, have consolidated the bandwidth to a single purchase which has led to a 25 percent reduction in costs.

Each ISP has been procuring between 5-6 Meg per month at a cost of $ 5,000 -$6,000 charged for it to be landed in Uganda. But the four ISPs last month landed 50 Meg at a 25 percent reduction bought at a wholesale price.

The price was reduced due to the bigger volume, purchase from a single link and the reduction in satellite space segment resulting from landing the bandwidth in bulk. The price is expected to further go down as more ISPs understand the concept and embrace it.

Each Meg of bandwidth is carried through a space segment of 1.5 Mhz on the satellite dish, the consolidated purchase would reduce the space segment on the satellite and in turn reduce purchase prices.

“Four ISPs have consolidated their purchases and bought the bandwidth from the same link at wholesale price. We can therefore charge reasonable rates and sell as much bandwidth as ones money can buy,” said Badru Ntege, the chairman Uganda ISPs Association.

Ntege said at One2Net they were charging a flat rate of $600 per month for 64K for all users but after the consolidated purchase prices have been lowered to $150 and there is an advantage of bursting it to 512K at a download capacity of 2GB for given hours during the 24 hours of the day for domestic users. Business users pay $250 for 128K per month which can also be burst at given hours.

According to the communications industry regulator, UCC there are 17 ISPs operating in Uganda. Ntege says only six of these are under the Uganda ISPs Association that is planning the move- Bushnet, Infocom, Afsat, Africaonline, One2Net and SpaceNet.

The price of Internet in Uganda is still very high to everyday users at Shs.25 (14 cents) per minute limiting Internet use and growth basically affected by expensive bandwidth sold by a few ISPs, which say they too are buying capacity via satellite and it is very expensive.