Data Rip-off: Cameroon Internet Costs Still Very High

After a prolonged time of internet cessations in some parts of Cameroon, the cost of internet remains among the world’s highest.

Research ICT Africa (RIA) compared the price of 1GB of data in 50 African countries and found that SA’s average price in the third quarter of 2016 was US$7, putting it in 22nd spot.

The cheapest was Mozambique, where Vodacom operates, with an average price of $2.27, followed by Tanzania at $2.39 and Ghana, where MTN operates, at $2.54. Cameroon is pegged at $7.30, while South Sudan charges $99.

In South Africa, the #DataMustFall campaign has failed to convince biggest phone companies to reduce prices
Internet Costs are Expensive in Cameroon

South Africans rightfully feel cheated: data prices in the country remain among the world’s highest.

The #DataMustFall campaign initiated last year did not lead to a price drop, though it did manage to raise awareness about unreasonably high tariffs that consumers are forced to cough up if they want access to the Internet.

Prepaid users can pay between 99c and R2 for 1MB of data, if they are Vodacom, MTN or Cell C customers. Telkom Mobile has dropped its prices, making it by far the most reasonable option.

"The ceiling prices of data for ad hoc users are far too high, and are holding back more rapid uptake as well as more intensive use of data in the mass market," says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.

He says data costs for lower-income users are the "real issue" the #DataMustFall campaign and other critics missed. Most low-income earners use prepaid services. These costs are much higher than bundles and contract rates.

Mergence Investments portfolio manager Peter Takaendesa agrees the major drivers of high data charges remain excessive out-of-bundle charges and very high rates per unit (MB) on smaller data packages — mostly used by low-income users.

Those higher charges are ultimately a function of a market dominated by two mobile operators — MTN and Vodacom.

"Smaller operators can be aggressive on pricing but they lack distribution and network coverage scale to force prices down materially," says Takaendesa.

The cheapest data bundle offered in SA (for 1GB) is from Telkom, on its FreeMe Boost package (R99). Its competitors charge from R150 for a similar bundle. Network operators also have a range of promotion-price packages, which have made data usage soar in recent years.

These promotions have created an impression that data prices are coming down.

RIA also stated in a report that SA data users, especially those in the lower-income category, are spending about 20% of their income on relatively small amounts of data (1GB). That does not go far, as websites and apps use significantly more data than they did a few years ago.

Data does cost more in SA than most other countries

In the race to provide citizens with the cheapest data deals SA is trailing far behind most of its Brics partners, local prices are on average 134% higher than in Russia

Without a change in the structure of the market dominated by the two companies, it is unlikely prices will come down materially. – Online Sources

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