There are at least three ways to get mobile data in Ethiopia. They all require using an ETC sim-card (as far as I know, there are no data roaming agreements yet.)
You can now buy an EVDO USB modem for about ETB 3000 (a bit less than US$300). There are two tarrifs – you can pay ETB 475 per month for up to 2GB download a month, or something astronomical for unlimited bandwidth.
The EVDO modem I have got does not take a SIM card – it has to be registered with ETC.
EVDO is much faster than the wired broadband internet available in Addis.
I haven’t worked out what happens when you reach your bandwidth cap – if you know, please tell us in the comments.
Mobile email using 3G
I am using a Nokia E71 for mobile email around Addis Ababa. My set up is:
- an unlocked Nokia E71
- a pay as you go 3G sim card from ETC (costs about ETB 300)
- RoadSync software to connect to my office Exchange Server
This means I am getting true “push” email – that is, new mail is pushed to my phone as they arrive. You can get the sim cards from ETC offices (eg in Edna Mall) or from a number of mobile phone shops around town (eg on Bole Road next to the New York Supermarket).
The 3G sim card uses the same scratch cards for credit top up as my mobile phone. The 3G data apparently costs ETB 0.20c per 1KB. I reckon I top up about ETB 100 Birr every two weeks.
Using Psiloc Connect reduces the data charge. It means that Roadsync accesses the data via wifi when there is a wifi signal available (we have wifi at home) and switches automatically to 3G when the wifi is out of range.
The setup for the 3G SIM card is:
- you need to dial 909 to register the SIM card
- the APN is “etc.com”
CDMA mobile data for laptops
Cheaper than EVDO with no monthly minimum fee, but much slower, is CDMA.
- a Huawei EC 325 CDMA data modem (costs about ETB 2300)
- a CDMA pay as you go SIM Card from ETC (costs about ETB 200)
- my normal laptop with a USB port.
The connection is not fast broadband; but the speed isn’t bad. It is about 5 times quicker than dialup. It is certainly good enough for checking email and surfing the web. But it isn’t as fast as EVDO.
To top up, you put the little earpiece into the modem to hear the call, then dial 903. Then choose 2, 1, 1, top up card number + #
The modem connection settings are:
Phone number: #777
Moble data outside Addis Ababa
I have used my 3G phone and CDMA modems in Shashemane and in Awassa and they both worked well. A friend of mine reports that they work in Sodo too. I haven’t tried EVDO outside Addis Ababa yet.
There is no mobile data yet in Lalibela.
Please let me know in the comments if you find mobile data working anywhere else outside Addis.
Where to get the equipment or more advice
If you want detailed advice, speak to Enetie Bayabil, +251 (0)911 60 71 98. His shop is on Bole Road in the Getu Building, opposite the New York Supermarket (the place with the Statue of Liberty sign outside).