Tonight we are at a presentation by TIGO, our mobile provider. I addition to copious amounts of free drink and food they are here to promote their 4G service which has just arrived in Mwanza.
They have recently expanded out from Dar Es Salaam, to Tanga, Arusha, Moshi, Mgorogoro and now Mwanza.
In fact we have been on the 4G network for a couple of months now and it is fast. Our connectivity had gone super fast and videos, downloads and Skype/ Facetime calls are so much smoother. Our upgrade has been free so it’s been a good deal all round. Obviously this is still Africa and sometimes we lose connection but it’s so much better than before.
Mwanza is actually quite connected. There is a relable if slower connection to the outside world here.
Yes it takes a few hours to download an episode of Dr Who and a movie might need to be downloaded overnight but it can be done. It’s even possible at times to stream live TV here with a little buffering and we can make FaceTime calls with little disruption (Skype has been a little more problematic but not impossibly so!).
Here in Mwanza we tend to communicate on our 3G connection rather than a fixed line rental which is much more expensive – our phone signal is more reliable and faster than the other options.
Catching up on news or sport (formally via News /Sports apps) or friends /family ( informally via Social Media / What’s App /Text) is a doddle most of the time. Writing and posting the blog has been straight forward.
All of the above is true until you leave Mwanza. As we have traveled in recent months we have realised that outside of the big towns connectivity drops fast. Our recent trip to Kigoma is an example. Once out into rural Tanzania ythere is no connectivity for hundreds of kilometers – once in town the connection is good but over a very limited area.
This was certainly true of Kigoma last week. Our base at Jakobsen’s Beach was internet free throughout. My blog posts and general connectivity were limited to the trips to town and actually it was quite refreshing.
I tmrealise how much time I spend connecting (formally and informally) – out here in the ‘wilds of Africa’ it has been good to remain connected to the UK to keep a small part of the UK here in Tanzania, but for a week we were disconnected for much of the time and able to enjoy unencumbered the beauty of our surroundings, the wildlife, the tranquility. We played card games, talked more and relaxed on the beach. Digital devices were strictly stand alone.
Reading a book (ibook)
As a connected person I found it strange not to know what was going on elsewhere at first but actually quite liberating too.
Perhaps we all need to be more disconnected for a time.
Mwanza is a known as Rock city due to the large number of enormous boulders strewn across the city. This is a hilly city with a number of peaks rising from the city away from the lake. But it is also a city dominated by towers. These red and white pylons dot high on the hills and thus dominate the landscape. In the UK they would cause an outcry, with irate NIMBY’s complaining vociferously, but here they are on the horizon and almost vanish as they become part of the norm. The towers are built to transmit radio signals vital for communications in this rocky domain. This the 3G signal remains fairly constant, though the same cannot be said for broadband, our signal at work often dropping and blamed on faulty towers.
It has been a mixed holiday. We have enjoyed ourselves here but the frustrations of slow (exceedingly slow) network connections and a faulty mic on my iPhone have combined to make contacting home a nightmare. This has been particularly true of my mum. All this leaves me somewhat cross and annoyed. There doesn’t seem to be an easy solution – the mic issue seems to affect FaceTime and Skype as well as video recordings and whenever I try to use Speakerphone, but is intermittent. The connectivity since Christmas has been ridiculously slow (see below). At times my 3G has been faster than WIFI. Changing from
Vodacom to Airtel has made no difference.
It’s not just calls, the use of the network for school work and social networking is restricted to one computer with a Zantel dongle. This is also the only allowing us the option of downloading our iTunes Christmas Gifts.
Before Christmas things were fine but now we might just have to bite the expensive bulletin and return to using the TTLC landline. 😦
T Minus 82
I am fairly attached to my mobile phone. I am using it now to write this post. I use it a lot when not at work. At work I am surrounded by computers and as an ICT Teacher it is very much a part of my working day. At home we have a fast broadband connection – so the only challenge in terms of connectivity is when I’m out and about. Much of the time I’m driving do it’s not an issue.
This week in Cornwall we have been travelling a lot exploring the area. It has been much harder to find a reliable signal as we have travelled – making navigation difficult (if the phone can’t get a signal it does not know where you are and so how to get you to where you are going).
The UK has patchy connectivity, 3G is very transient and often you need to rely on Edge (I am using that now) or GPRS (both of which are inferior technologies). Then suddenly everything is gone – no signal.
The other use of the phone is Social Media. Facebook, Twitter and of course WordPress :-). I like to keep in touch with the world through Social Media and this, I think, will be really important when we travel to Mwanza in Tanzania. It has been much harder to do this in the week – relying on the infrequent connections and the occasional WiFi hotspot. We were staying in a Travel Inn with WiFi which helped though speeds were lower than usual.
In spite of all this it has still been possible to connect, even if patchily.
Going to Africa is going to be a challenge on the connectivity front. Network speeds are going to be much slower. I will still have a computer at work and we hope to get a home network – but will have to get used to slower speeds. It is probably the mobile phone network that will be the challenge. Not only the speed but the ability to walk around holding an iPhone in my hand will obviously restrict usage. I doubt that I will be able to blog daily as I am at the moment. It will be a change of habit, a different way of doing things. It will be good for me too! Perhaps mobile technology has been too easy, too addictive. If a few days in Cornwall have taught me anything, it is that you can be disconnected and fine!
Posted in Africa, Getting out, Getting Prepared, Mwanza, Tanzania, Tanzanian living, UK Living
Tagged 3G, connectivity, Cornwall, GPRS, iPhone, Mwanza, network, Tanzania