Until recently, almost all internet connection in Ethiopia was through dial-up via a normal telephone line. Apparantly it was very slow and tiresome.
Fortunately, in the last year or so, another option has become available. We are a using CDMA device, also known as a dongle in the UK. It was quite hard to find information about this on the internet before we came here so I’ll explain here how it works. You need the following…
First you need a CDMA device. Looks like a pen drive. Cost in Addis Ababa was 1300 birr (£52) . I tried looking in the UK for one before we came here but there were all fixed to a UK network, and sealed devices, which is important for the next point…
You also need a CDMA SIM card which is bought separately and inserted into the device. Cost 300 birr (£12) . You need to register your details and provide 2 passports photos with ETC (Ethiopian Telecommuncations Corporation) before you get one. ETC is the only telecommucations company in Ethiopia.
Insert your CDMA into your computer using a USB connection and after you have set it up once at the beginning you can then press dial to get an internet connection. So in a way it is very much like a mobile phone that connects to your computer. It uses the mobile network which ETC have apparantly been investing heavily in recently. We can see many mobile masts around our small town for instance.
To pay for the time spent on the internet you have to buy mobile phone credits which look like this. They come in 15 birr (60p), 25 birr (£1), 50 birr (£2) and 100 birr (£4) denominations. You just scratch the back to get a unique PIN number. To load the credit to your CDMA you then call a number on your mobile, enter your CDMA number and then the credit PIN. And that’s it. So far we seem to be spending 100 birr a week and you get a good few hours for that. Also we were told that it is cheaper to connect after 8pm.
So for future volunteers or visitors to Ethiopia, don’t worry as you can get everything here quite easily, even in the smaller regional towns. Using the CDMA is actually very convenient (you can use it anywhere really), quite cheap and in fact can be quite fast. Faster than using dial-up at least. Uploading and downloading things is a bit slower and uses more credit, but overall it works just fine. We can even do Skype on it, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s also a step up for us as we didn’t have internet at home in the UK!!
PS. This was written during a power-cut… so you don’t even need electricity!!