Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cell phones in Malawi

Even here in a rural village in central Malawi, I can use my cell phone. Some of the people in the village have them, including my abambo. They are the older phones like you saw in the U.S. ten years ago though, not Smartphones. Interestingly, you do not see land lines here. That technology with all of its expensive infrastructure never took hold here, and now that there are cell phones it never will.

The main cell phone service providers in Malawi are Airtel and TNM. I think TNM works better in some remote areas of the North and South, but Airtel works well most places, including here in the Kasungu district.

Setting up a cell phone with either provider is easy. You buy a SIM card for K200 (about US $0.50) from a TNM or Airtel vendor. Once you set up the phone, you buy data and minutes with little scratch-off cards from Airtel and TNM distributor stands in the Boma or your nearest trading post. They come in denominations of K50, K100, K500 and K1000. The data expires after one month while the talk/text minutes never expire. No contract needed.

I had a problem this week where I used up my data very quickly, and I was not able to get to the Boma to buy more. So I am behind in my blog posting, which I plan to remedy this weekend.

In terms of service, you can get 3G in the Bomas and cities. Here in our village, I get the "E" service. (I can't remember what it stands for.) Basically, I can text, check email and post to the blog, but everything else takes a LONG time. To the point where browsing the web is nearly impossible because it usually times out. So I can't visit websites or load emails with lots of photos, at least not until I get to the city. I have a lot of photos I want to post to the blog, so I will do that when I am in a 3G zone.

Tsalani bwino (stay well).

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