A few weeks ago, we hit the interwebs with an exclusive story about the biggest telecom in the country finally giving unlimited internet a shot.
It has been business as usual at MTN Uganda and not at one time had it tried sailing in the waters of unlimited internet. And so, it came as a surprise to many that finally big yellow wants to give the likes of Smile and Africell a run for their money.
With one of the biggest 4G and 3G footprints in the country so hey, why not try giving Ugandans Unlimited Internet they’ve longed for? Just as we previously promised, we’ve had a chance of experiencing MTN’s new unlimited internet to attest whether it is truly unlimited not just in word, but in service too.
The greater part of last 2 weeks has been spent experiencing MTN Uganda’s take on unlimited internet and here are our observations.
The Bundle Basics
MTN launched its unlimited internet with three tiers with MTN Unlimited Basic going for UGX 179,000 for, MTN Unlimited Premium having a market price of UGX 330,000 and finally MTN Unlimited Night going for UGX 99,000 and all valid for 30 days as explained here. The pricing looks similar to Smile’s unlimited only that there was lack of a volume mention on MTN’s side, until we explained it above.
For this review, we went all out and tested with the MTN Unlimited Premium bundle using MTN’s Huawei E5573s – 320 MIFI which is capable of download speeds of up to 150Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps. Test areas included; CBD, Nakasero, Bukoto, Ntinda, Naalya and Namugongo given they are some of the areas with a large bulk of internet users and penetration.
The tools at our disposal were Ookla’s speednet, Netflix’s fast and speedof.me. We are pretty heavy internet users and so we strained MTN’s unlimited internet to the maximum plus our observations are quite conclusive and a testament of what MTN’s take on unlimited is. Any disagreements or suggestions are welcome in our comments section.
The speeds were not pretty consistent and at the worst, the network dropped to 3G since MTN’s 2600MHz band can allow it to switch to 3G in case you can’t pick up the 4G signal. This is the one thing that differentiates MTN from the some of the unlimited crowd as they solely focus on 4G LTE while big yellow has both third and fourth generation networks at its disposal.
How better to test heavy usage than big data like video? I binge watched on Netflix for the greater part of my evenings enjoying Netflix Originals like; Iron Fist, and 13 Reasons why on both SD and HD, Youtube not forgetting torrents, updates among others. Whereas the picture quality was good on most streaming services (Netflix in particular), likewise there were times with a noticeable drop in frame rates which were later regained.
I will attribute this to optimization with time that Netflix could tell my dropped speeds and optimized my experience to suit the speeds. I suppose also, that this was after I exceeded the daily download limit of 3GB after which speeds are dropped to less than 256 kbps best-effort as the FUP applies. It’s wasn’t until the following day, that speeds would resume as were before. Well, no surprises there.
The average download is 1.7Mbps on all and 1.0Mbps uploads, while concurrent heavy usage saw speeds drop to as low as 140Kbps, way below the suggested 256Kbps.
Overall, each day had its own experience with highs and lows but the nights turned out to have the best experience. It could be because of low usage and as such, the network isn’t as strained and congested as would be the case during day.
Also, given the different pricing of the three unlimited offerings, it is safe to assume that each will have its own volume as you can’t equally divide volumes to a UGX 179,000, UGX 330,000 and UGX 99,000 user but MTN has mostly delegated the debate to speeds than volume. Each tier has the same maximum download speeds of 2 Mbps but different different data caps.
Coming from Smile, MTN still has an achilles heel to battle but might rise triumphant given Uganda is blanketed by the yellow network, coverage plays to their favor unlike the green network that is limited to a few Metropolitan areas. However with experience, Smile Wins!
The average speed of 2 Mbps might sound good on paper but it kept dropping as more devices connected to the network especially the moment I returned home owing to the many gadgetry, getting connected simultaneously. Still, you have to keep the daily data limit into consideration as it would take a while to fully optimise the experience to a seamless one once exceeded with many devices connected at ago.
While people privy to the matter remain cagey about the actual volumes dispensed per tier, it is safe to assume that the 3GB threshold per day will equate to 90GB at the end of the normal 30days period for MTN Unlimited Premium and MTN Unlimited Night while the 1GB per day for MTN Basic will equate to 30GB for a 30day period window.