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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tracking Mobile and Internet Services Across Africa

I’m continually frustrated trying to find the providers and costs of mobile phone and web services in African countries. This site was inspired by, and dedicated to, the many ranting and raving conversations amongst the technorati of Africa.

One of the issues is that the providers themselves do a shoddy job of getting the information out through convoluted (if any) marketing and price gimmicks. Another issue is that once you find out what services are available, you have no idea what to expect in terms of service levels and data speeds.

I decided to put together a site, African Signals, where people could leave information on the availability, costs and service levels of mobile phone and internet connections in their country. Right now there is a basic skeleton for every country, but it needs to be updated and improved.

Your Job:

Find your country and enter whatever you know about your local costs, speeds and service levels for mobile phone operators and internet service providers (ISPs).

Take 5 minutes and jump see if you can add anything new, or if the info is correct. Then, tell your tech friends from that country too, share this. It’s a resource, something for you to give to and to take from. It is strengthened by your information, and I hope that you in turn will benefit from it too one day.

Example pages

Liberia:

African Signals page for Liberia - mobile phone services

More good example pages, and a special thanks to:

[Note: Some might notice that I am repurposing a domain that I used to have a podcast on 2 years ago, but subsequently was abandoned.]

12 Comments

  1. Dude — I sure wish you had talked to me! In two weeks we are re-launching MobileActive.org and are including these data points in the new Mobile Country Data database:

    Off-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during evening/weekeend; 2008; US$
    Off-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during evening/weekeend; 2008; PPP$
    Off-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during non-peak hours; 2008; US$
    Off-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during non-peak hours; 2008; US$
    Off-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during peak hours; 2008; US$
    Off-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during peak hours; 2008; US$
    On-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during evening/weekeend; 2008; US$
    On-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during evening/weekeend; 2008; PPP$
    On-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during non-peak hours; 2008; US$
    On-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during non-peak hours; 2008; US$
    On-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during peak hours; 2008; US$
    On-Network Call Price for 1-minute local call during peak hours; 2008; US$
    Call to a Fixed Line Price for 1-minute local call during evening/weekeend; 2008; US$
    Call Price for 1-minute local call to Landline during evening/weekeend; 2008; PPP$
    Call Price for 1-minute local call to LandLine during non-peak hours; 2008; US$
    Call Price for 1-minute local call to LandLine during non-peak hours; 2008; US$
    Call Price for 1-minute local call to LandLine during peak hours; 2008; US$
    Call Price for 1-minute local call to LandLine during peak hours; 2008; US$
    Price of 1 SMS in US $; 2007
    Price basket for mobile telephone service ($ a month); 2006
    Telephone mainlines (per 100 people); 2006
    Number of cell phones per 100 people; 2007
    Number of mobile BROADBAND subscribers per 100 people; 2007 Internet Bandwidth per User (bit/s); 2007
    Telecommunications investment (% of revenue); 2006 Telecommunications revenue (% of GDP); 2006

    and misc other data that is publicly available such as
    # Effective price per minute
    # ARPU (pre-paid/contract)
    # Subscriber acquisition costs per user
    # Total billed SMS events
    # SMS messages per user per month
    # mobile operators/1130 networks in 220 countries

    Let me know what other data might be needed and we try to get our hands on it.

    Katrin

  2. @katrin – that does look like a good data set. How are you getting the data and how are you keeping it updated?

  3. looks like the ITU data – unfortunately the major statistics I am interested in is Data costs per MB – on data plan or on off together with GPRS data coverage. When data is available on ‘pay as you go’ and is much lower than SMS then there are fundamental changes in the way people communicate.

  4. Hash / Katrin – great initiatives, we need a collaborative resource like this.

    However, I second Rob’s comment. We are really lacking stats on data costs. Linked to this is data on handsets by country. Specifically I would like to see this broken down by headings like J2ME capable, android, GPRS enabled etc.

    With this type of information we would be able to make informed decisions as to when data based services are viable.

    Some thoughts on data sources:

    Request data from manufacturers and the companies that aggregate and sell bulk volumes of consumer handsets in Africa.
    Request data from the web benchmarking companies (Alexa etc.) to try and get an indication of numbers of mobile browsers.

  5. @Rob Allen and @Rob Worthington – That is exactly the changing type of data/info that is really only able to be tracked well in a collaborative wiki format. Take a look at what the Kenyans are doing so far with the different data options: http://www.africansignals.com/kenya:safaricom:safaricomhotspotpostpaid

    That’s what type of granularity I hope to see, and change as the market changes.

  6. @Alex: Would you be willing to come up with such a database site for presenting the results? I think we’re still at stage 1 which includes the collection of such data from it’s users. Maybe the db system will be easier for users to know what data is sought for? But either way, I am just happy to see a site like this new wiki. I will link to it from my “How to use GPRS..”-posts.

    On another note, I’d love to see a redesign of cd3wd.com into something that’s more visually appealing. You may know that we’ve in the past linked to your excellent site from AfriGadget.com and while having witnessed how for example the GATE publications were thrown away @GTZ in Eschborn after the project was stopped, all these orgs who are producing or financing manuals should (also) store it in a central file repository like cd3wd. Using social bookmarking services that just link to their resp. websites may also be the right way. But anyways, too off-topic right now…

    @Erik: from a video podcast site to a wiki – not bad! Now we only need to figure out what to do with the other domains (e.g. afritwit.com etc.).

  7. @whiteafrican — I have my ways on getting my hands on data ๐Ÿ™‚ Let’s just say beg, borrow, and steal….Some of it is public and we scraped it -ITU (or hover, as the British would say), some open APIs – World Bank and some where we are negotiating terms and costs right now because it’s proprietary (and not included on the list above) – GSMA and other data vendors. Ideally, we make this user-driven — you tell us what data you need as an implementer on the ground, and we try to get it.

    As far as updating is concerned, depends on what the sources are and how often data is updated. The GMSA wireless intelligence service does it nightly, add quarterly earning reports from the operators, etc; other, such as the ITU is slower. MMetrics and Nielsen update theirs continuously, same with Jupiter etc. Nonprofit outlets like LIRNE Asia and Research ICT Africa have more aggregate data rather than country-by-country or operator-level data that they publish, though we are talking with them as well to determine how to work together.

    On that note, I am hearing needs for these additional kinds of data points:

    * Data costs per MB – on data plan or on off
    * GPRS data coverage (operators have coverage maps but many are rather fictional)
    * data on handsets by country – J2ME capable, android, GPRS enabled etc.

    What else?

    And we have this in an SQL database right now – to be published in a couple of weeks on the new mobileactive.org and to be amended as we get more access to critical data points.

    Katrin, MobileActive.org

  8. I let you change the data on the other website. Concerning Mali: Ikatel is now Orange Mali. So you can take out Ikatel.
    Malitel cell phone # start with 6
    Orange land lines with 4
    Orange cell phones with 7

  9. @jutta – I could put that in (and probably will), but the point is that you should put that info into the site instead. It’s really meant as a community resource that everyone contributes to.

  10. Hi,

    Great site.
    I am quite into the incredibly confusing price structures of Tanzanian ISP’s, and I’d like to add them on the African Signals site.
    However, this eems to be offline?
    Or – as I am on KU-band (Iway) and it is the rainy season – maybe I am offline ๐Ÿ˜€

    I will be trying again later. if the site is in fact offline, please let me know so I am spared the endless frustration of teh 404…!

    Cheers,

    Jeppe
    ICT Advisor
    MS Tanzania

  11. @Jeppe – Would love to get your input on TZ info onto African Signals. I just checked, and the site is up and running fine for me. If you still can’t get on, do let me know.

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