There is no doubt that there is a lot of potential in Uganda and unlike previous years we can not really say that the failure to innovate is because of unstable Internet connectivity since we now have access to faster fiber connections, however the cry is now on the price to access this gem.
Some startups in Uganda today spend more than 40% of their budget on faster Internet access per month or end up going to use incubation hubs which as well don’t have that fast a connection because the bandwidth is maxed thin by multiple users.
We know that Netflix made debut into Uganda in late 2016, but up to now it is hard to find a proud local subscriber to Netflix yet there are many who can afford the monthly subscription. It is not only Netflix you could access for online entertainment, Roku, YouTube TV, maybe the upcoming Facebook TV and Hulu too.
So, what is the problem? Streaming half of a good Transformers full HD movie online with limited buffer might drain 1GB of internet or more which costs between UGX 35,000 – UGX 50,000 depending on the telecom provider. That is too much to spend on one movie instead of buying a pirated disc down town or downloading it online.
It is interesting though, that none of the telecom companies especially Vodafone or Africell which seem to be the most innovative and forward thinking in the data bundle arena have implemented a low cost monthly streaming bundle.
They could launch bundles with different tiers that limit your access to specific services, for instance Tier 1 could limit you to accessing Netflix, YouTube and Facebook videos. Tier 2 could expand on the previous and add on Hulu and maybe Amazon TV and Tier 3 could be unlimited with inclusion of YouTube TV and several other services.
Telecoms could even go a step further and develop their business model and strategy to include partnerships with most of these services and make their own set top TV boxes that come with easy subscription to these services. This will bring direct competition to the current satellite TV companies like DSTV/GoTV, Zuku and Azam yet providing even more engaging content.
This would incredibly drive down the entertainment prices, but also diversify telecom revenue streams. Some telecommunication companies abroad have already done something similar but they use satellite or cable and provide unlimited internet with the package such as Sky, AT&T, Verizon, Virgin Mobile, etc. Zuku tried to offer unlimited internet alongside its entertainment package although its programs are not necessarily to die for.
I wish this could happen sooner because the current programming on Uganda’s satellite subscription TV providers is depressing, it feels like they are not even trying to expand it let alone it is expensive. With Netflix you have access to several new TV shows and movies whereas with YouTube TV you would have access to all the great American TV shows from channels like CW, CBS, ABC, etc.
Will we see Uganda’s telecom companies step up and lead us into this great generation of entertainment? I doubt it will be soon but let us pray that one day they do.
Lawk is a mozillian, writes for Spur, Newslibre and consults part time for Every1Mobile and Innovware.
He loves open source, the open web, writing, reading and developing literacy tools that can teach the youth around the world especially in East Africa.