Tanzania speeding on broadband highway

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Dar es Salaam - The arrival of new submarine telecommunications cables starting in 2009, paired with government investment in the national telecommunications backbone, has spurred a 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.

This represents an effective drop of thousands of percent in the cost of Internet bandwidth in the country over the past three to four years, says Anna Kahama-Rupia, managing director of SEACOM Tanzania.

She says that before 2009, the US$5,000 to $10,000 cost for dedicated fixed-line meant that only larger 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 (about R120) a month to enjoy high-speed mobile access to the Internet from their cellphones, including the cost voice calls. This has had an enormous transformative effect on education, entrepreneurship and social life in the country, adds Kahama-Rupia.

Kahama-Rupia says that the 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 rollout 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 50 million people. Today, there is around 10G, a factor that has helped to bring connectivity costs down dramatically.

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.

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