Today I have been to every single ISP in Arusha that we knew about, and found out about two others.
The day started early with Yuki and I getting a dalla-dalla into town at about 7:30am. We haven’t really been up and out so early before. The temperature was much more pleasant at this time, and the dalla-dalla was pretty quiet too! Arusha was pleasantly deserted as we made our way to meet the technician at ACE. He reiterated what I had been told yesterday – there are too many hubs between their office and ours and the signal would be too weak. What I did discover though was that they were actually offering a connection to their wireless connection, not a hard wired connection to the Habari network. I also discovered that Habari is actually Arusha Node Marie, and they are commonly called Habari simply because www.habari.co.tz is their domain name.
Discovering all this we decided it would be a good idea to make a definitive visit to all the ISPs in Arusha and find out exactly what each offers and at what cost.
As we walked back to the cafe to talk to Leah about all this we noticed an electical shop that was advertising internet service provision. We walked in and it turned out that there is a third player on the market.
The company had been called JR Internet, but had been bought by a Dar es Salaam based company called CatNet.
I got talking to the guy in charge and told him what we were up to. He called his head office in Dar Es Salaam, and enquired with them regarding how much to charge us. He told us it would cost ony $40 per month, plus the usual huge sum for wireless equipment ($1500+ in case I haven’t mentioned it previously). This seemed like a fantastic deal. The other ISPs in town all charge about $180 a month.
We got back to the cafe feeling quite hopeful, but we decided it was still worth going round to all the other ISPs to find out what they were offering. Leah, Sylvan and I headed off to the offices of Arusha Node Marie, in the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC), where the UN Rwanda Burundi Genocide trials are going on. They had an information sheet which detailed all their costs. Pretty much the same as CyberNet – $180 a month. Then we headed to CyberNet to confirm their prices, then Leah wanted to talk to CatNet to confirm what I had been quoted.
It was too good to be true. When Leah spoke with the guy it turned out they would charge $40 per computer. Too damn expensive! So they had priced themselves out.
I brought out a Linksys BEFW11S4 Wireless Router from the UK intended to get Uru School online with it. I thought it was time to find out whether or not we could save some money by using this as our connecting hardware, so we took it to CyberNet. Of course, they were very sceptical, since if it doesn’t work we will be buying some very over-priced kit from them. They couldn’t see that the router is a radio the same as any other wireless device that they sell. However this arguement was pretty academic as I don’t think we will be able to get hold of the RP-TNC connectors for the external antenna connectors on my box. Damn! Should have planned for that.
I then decided to visit an internet cafe to check email. We went to Bethel internet cafe. It is there that we discovered the fourth ISP in Arusha. The national phone company, Tanzanian Telecommunications Ltd (TTCL), offers some kind of connection via copper wire. The connection costs $300 a month according to Bethel, but they are planning on dropping the price to $150 a month. The hardware is some kind of modem, and it is necessary to buy two, an extra one for the telephone exchange. This costs about $1,200 according to Bethel. Again, this seemed like a pretty good deal, as Bethel are very happy with their connection, and the speeds seem quite acceptable.
We decided to pay a visit to TTCL tomorrow.