By Sulayman Waan
The high cost of internet services has triggered misery among several people in The Gambia as many described this nightmare as inhospitable. Online communication is becoming difficult in the country due to the high cost of internet services.
Good Internet service is important to ensure effective communication, considering the fact that both the literates and illiterates use social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp for online communication daily. People spend much money on internet service on daily basis.
Internet service is cheaper in neighboring Senegal than The Gambia. The Orange Company limited charges 75MB at 250 CFA for 24 hours. Meaning it charges 75MB at 23.4 dalasis for 24 hours. It charges 400MB at 400 CFA for 24 hours equivalent to 400MB at 37.5 dalasi for 24 hours. This company sold 1GB at 1000 CFA for 3 days, equivalent D93.7 for 1GB for 3 days usage. And it also sold 7GB at 5000CFA for 30 days, equivalent to D468.6 per 7GB for 30 days.
Rates of Africell and Q-Cell
Africell, the biggest mobile services provider in The Gambia with 57% user share charges 50MB at D26 for 30 days browse equivalent to 50MB at 278.5 CFA for 30 days. This company also sold 100MB at D45 for 30 days equivalent to 100MB at 481 CFA for 30 days. It sold 200MB at D90 for 30 days, equivalent to 200MB at 963 CFA.
It sold 500MB at D145 for 30 days, equivalent to 500MB sold at 1553.5 CFA. Africell also sold 1GB at D250 for 45 days, equivalent to 1GB sold at 2677.7 CFA FOR 45 days. In addition the giant electronic company charges 5GB at D770 for 60 days usage while this one equivalent 8247.23 CFA for two months usage.
However, QCell also a giant telecommunication company with nationwide coverage is cheaper than all the GSM operators owing to its recent promotion with 100% bonus. It charges 40MB at D18; 160MB at D31; 150MB at D58; 1.5GB at D82 and 8GB at D975 respectively.
These charges are equivalent to 40 MB at 192.79CFA; 160 MB at 332.02 CFA; 150MB at 621. 22 CFA, 1.5GB at 878.28 CFA, 8GB at 10442.92 CFA respectively.
Despite the recent hundred percent promotions that Qcell provided for its customers some said it is not satisfactory because the internet services goes off quickly.
“If I purchased credit and convert it to megabytes I used to be happy. Because I see hundred percent (100%) bonus. But the megabytes would get finish in short time, making me worry,” Mariama Njie, a journalist told this reporter.
Speaking to this medium exclusively, Olu Adeyemi, an internet café owner at London Conner in Serekunda said the cost of the internet services is very expensive in the Gambia compared to other African countries.
“Internet is much more expensive in The Gambia than other countries like Nigeria and Senegal. I used to subscribe from Africell for my data card. And I often pay three hundred dalasis (D300) for 1.5 GB. This amount can give me unlimited internet services in other countries,” he said.
The Senegalese Orange Telecommunication Company charges 1GB at 1000 CFA equivalent D80 for 3 days usage.
In this regards, the ICT specialist said one hundred dalasis (D100) would get 1 GB in Nigeria and Senegal which is quite different from the Gambia as a customer has to spend more than that amount to get a gigabyte.
Adeyemi said, to get better internet service, he had to spend D4000 to subscribes monthly internet services from the Net Page Company Limited. “This is expensive,” he decried.
He said half of the money he is paying to Net Page monthly can get him unlimited internet services for a month in Nigeria.
He opined that there is a need for Government to regulate the internet service as well engages all internet service providers to ensure the cost is trim down.
Rates of Gamcel, the state GSM Operator
Gamcel, the state-owned telecommunication company GSM charges 20MB at D13, 50MB at D25, 100MB at D40, 200MB at D76 and 1GB at D270, compare to Orange-SN that sold 75MB at D15, 400MB at D35 and 1GB at D80.
The Senegalese expresso charges 40MB at 100 CFA (D5) for 24 hours, 100MB at 200 CFA (D10) for 24 hours, 700MB at 1000CFA (D80), 2GB at 500CFA (D40) for 24 hours and 1GB at 2300CFA (D177) for 30 days respectively.
In 2015 the first 4G provider started in the Gambia. It uses Wi Max and TD-LTE on 2300 MHz (band 40) which is not compatible to most GSM phones. All of their data are sold by the month and are really unlimited. The rate depends on the max. Speed given. It starts at 256 KBit/s for D 2100 and goes up to 5 MBit/s for D 5800 which many people said it is too expensive.
Baboucarr Cessay, businessman at Brikama described the cost of internet services in the country as dreadful to all internet users, saying “I use Qcell data to communicate through the social media platforms such as whats App and Facebook but it is very expensive.”
Complaining further he said: “I often purchase D50 megabyte to communicate via what’s App as well as downloads something. But this megabyte would not sustain me for a day. This is very costly.”
In The Gambia, many people have stopped browsing in internet cafes’ due to high cost and slow of the internet services.
Ansumana Jammeh, proprietor of Ceesay Power Com. Internet located at Kombo Farato said the high cost of megabyte and WIFI is unbearable in the country.
The internet café owner said he subscribes to Q-cell WIFI service on monthly basis but complained that it is too expensive because he often buys D2225 for the 2 MIC per month while he described this price as unbearable.
“The high cost of internet service is affecting my business. Because I get no or little profit and my customers always complain about the high tariff without knowing that the problem is from my source (Q-cell).”
Speaking further, he said regardless of the high cost the internet services in the country the speed of the connection is still slow making him to loss customers gradually.
Ba- Musa Jatta, video editor said internet service is very expensive and slow in the Gambia compare to other West African state. “I used Q-cell sim card to browse but is very expensive. Because if I buy megabyte it will finish so quickly, I cannot use that internet service to watch video, download and upload videos or tone online radios because if I do so it would finish without rendering my services.”
Africell, the biggest mobile provider in the country with a 57% user share sold 50MB at D26 for 30 days browse. This company also sold 100MB at D45 for 30 days. It sold 200MB at D90 for 30 days. It sold 500MB at D145 for 30 days. Africell also sold 1GB at D250 for 45 days. In addition the giant electronic company sold 5GB at D770 for 60 days usage.
However, Mr Jatta protested that Africell prices of internet services are also awful. “I was having Africell dongle but now I have abandoned it owing to the high cost of Africell megabyte.”
Net page also another internet services provider in the Gambia, it sells 256 KBit/s for D 2100 and 5 MBit/s for D 5800 which many people said it is too expensive compare to other countries.
Research has also shown that Orange Mali, a Malian Internet Mobile Company charges 30MB at 100 XOF for one day, 20MB at 100 XOF for four days, 100MB at 250XOF for one day and 1GB at 1000XOF for day.
Mr Jatta called on PURA to regulate the internet services system so as to ease social media communication in the country.
Reacting to this national development concern, Amadou Ceesay, executive secretary for The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCP) confirmed that the commission has received several complaints about Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related issues such as data connection, unexplained charges, charges for unsubscribe ringtone, high charges, advertisement that are purported to be false in term of internet usage, and soon.
Commissioner Ceesay said GCCP has conducted a research on ICT charges within the sub-region particularly Senegal but the report indicated that communication rates (Internet services and credit) in the Gambia are almost twice expensive than some countries.
Consequently, Amadou Ceesay said the commission has been receiving complaints on quarterly basis and all those complaints were forwarded to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA).
“We have a Memorandum of Understanding with them (PURA) and what we do is to over share it to them because they should be the first point of call,” he disclosed.
Speaking on behalf of his company (Africell), Musa Sisay, media consultant for Africell told this medium that the expensiveness of the internet services is due to the expensiveness of telecommunication materials.
He added that the company has invested lots of money to provide services for the Gambian people but the number of consumers in the country is very small compare to other countries that have good number of consumers.
“We spend over 800 million dalasi on tax per annum. We have bought towers valued about $200,000. We spend more money on sport levy and among other expenditures and the numbers of consumers is low compare to other countries,” he said.
Matarr Touray, senior economist for PURA underscored the factors responsible for high cost of internet services in The Gambia. He said the Gambia gets internet through relatively new infrastructure from the undersea Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable and transport it locally via the national Ecowas Wide Area Network (ECOWAN) backbone.
He said providing internet through this channel requires huge investment totaling fifty millions US dollars ($50m) for deployments. He added this expenditure; with a couple of high taxes on Telecom companies have contributed a lot on the expensiveness of the internet in the country.
Ebrima Sillah, minister of Information, Communication and Infrastructure said government is putting mechanisms in place to ensure the internet services are affordable for the average Gambians. He disclosed that on March 26, the Gambia government had a meeting with operators to ensure effective and affordable internet services for all.
However, this reporter contacted Q-cell but could not get their reaction on this concern.