Telecoms move to deepen 4G internet penetration


Some of the people who attended Tigo’s 4G festival last week. (Courtesy)

Rwanda is promoting universal access to affordable Internet as one of the enablers of business. The launch of high speed Internet, commonly known as Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) over a year ago was seen as a step towards achieving this goal, besides helping in transformation of Rwanda through digital inclusion. 

However, the challenge of access to quality and high speed Internet persists. The cutting-edge technology is also yet to be embraced by the majority of Rwandans, forcing telecoms to mount campaigns to sensitise the public about benefits of using 4G Internet.

According Tongai Maramba, Tigo Rwanda chief executive officer, 4G Internet provides enormous potential to change lives through digital inclusion.

“The Internet is an enabler for self-development, doing business, as well as staying in touch with colleagues and associates,” Maramba said at last week’s Tigo 4G festival, which is aimed at showcasing 4G LTE Internet and its benefits.

“For business owners who rely on Internet staying in touch with customers and suppliers, or the young people that want a phone that allows best deals on voice and messages, they will have an edge with 4G LTE Internet,” he said.

Most Rwandans are still using old generation Internet, especially 2G, 2.5G, 3G. However, customers can easily access the cutting edge technology enabled SIM card (upgrade), or buy a 4G enabled smartphones. However, the cost of the facilities is still a challenge for most Rwandans.

Brian Mutabazi, the 4G LTE corporate sales account manager at Airtel Rwanda, said despite the challenges, 4G Internet has significantly enhanced service delivery for companies, individuals and organisations that have embraced it for their day-to-day activities.

“Though some people still think that 4G is expensive, many others care about how the technology would enable them accomplish their tasks without worrying over slow Internet,” he added.

He said 4G LTE compatible devices are increasing on the market, adding the making them accessible to the majority of Rwandans will be a gradual and continuous process.

Currently, some 4G Internet bundles cost Rwf325 per day, down from Rwf350 previously.

Despite 4G price cuts, the question of access for both devices and the high speed Internet, especially for ordinary Rwandans and small businesses, still persists. The price of 4G-enabled smartphones is still high.

However, Maramba said one can buy a 4G-enabled SIM card and upgrade, noting that the telecom is employing different means to make 4G affordable to subscribers to boost Internet penetration levels that currently stand at about 35 per cent. He said prices for a 4G weekly pack range from Rwf1,900.

4G LTE users speak out

According to Aisha Uwimana, the PRO of Kaymu, 4G Internet is ideal for businesses. She said for online markets, high speed Internet is essential to keep the enterprise running smoothly.

Eugene Sheria, a new 4G user, said using the Internet had been a big challenge due to slow connectivity of the old generation technologies like 2G or 3G.

According to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) figures for February, 78 per cent or 8.76 million of the population have mobile phones. Of these, Airtel had 1.63 million subscribers, MTN 4.02 million customers, while Tigo had 3.11 million clients.