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sub-Saharan Africa Topics specific to sub-Saharan Africa. (Includes all countries South of 17 degrees latitude)
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Old 5 May 2009
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Location: Putney, UK
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Question Satellite or Mobile internet in Africa (specifically east coast)

Hi folks

I've just completed the west coast leg of my circumnavigation of Africa. Updating our website on the move was fine, there are loads of Internet Cafes all over Africa. Sometimes a bit slow and frustrating, but the access is very much there.

I'm now about to head back up the east coast, and was wondering what the availability of mobile internet is? Cellular coverage is almost 100% now, and the technology is available to support mobile broadband... I know that people in each country can get mobile broadband, but what about travellers passing through? Is it possible to get temporary access in each country? What are the costs like?

What about multi-country access? Is this available, and if so, at what cost?

Also, I stayed with some friends in Nigeria and noticed their internet connection was via satellite (tx and rx). Since I've got the space (truck not bike) it wouldn't be too much of an issue to lug a satellite dish around. The only issue would be to align the dish with the satellite, but that's perfectly do-able. Has anyone ever done this while travelling through Africa?

What about costs? Is it just unrealistic cost-wise, or can this be affordable?

Any help much appreciated.

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Old 18 May 2009
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Location: Toronto, Canada
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Hello Steve:

Ease of internet access in East Africa is directly proportionate to the level of development in the community that you happen to be in. If you are in Nairobi, you can connect all over the place - in fact, there are so many unsecured wireless routers in use, you should have no problem finding a 'free' connection to mooch off of. Failing that, there are numerous commercial services that offer reasonably inexpensive public access through 802.11 wireless.

You can do internet via GSM telephone in just about every East African country, but you need to be very careful about the costs if you are roaming. Otherwise, just buy a SIM card from one of the better-known operators (Vodafone, etc.) and prepay an account that provides internet access.

Generally speaking, internet connections are very slow on the East side of Africa - far slower than on the West side. There's not much bandwidth available between that part of the continent and the rest of the world. Numerous undersea fiber optic cables are being laid now, but likely there will be no improvement in speed for the next 12 months or so.
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