Monday, May 30, 2011

Internet in Mali: 3G Orange key

         5,000 CFA phone card, a SIM card and my cell phone
When I moved to Bamako in September I drooled over cheesy pizzas, ice cream and the National Park and just general living in Bamako - the capital city of Mali.  I outfitted my kitchen with a refrigerator (granted, a tiny one), an oven (granted, a toaster oven) and a coffee table.  I bought patio furniture and basil plants to spruce up my terrace.  The question remained though - what about internet?  Could I afford a subscription on my Peace Corps stipend (granted, a tiny one!)?  At close to 30,000/month (about $60 USD), I realized an at-home internet subscription was way beyond my budget as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Lucky for me Orange, one of Mali's phone service providers, has folks like me in mind!

Rather than pay for internet to be installed in my apartment and a monthy fee way out of my budget I now use Orange's 3G USB key to have Internet Everywhere.  For one month I pay 5,000 - 10,000 CFA ($10-$20 USD), depending on their monthly deals, and can Skype and surf the net to my heart's content.  For one person the cost and amount of internet (1GB) are just right!  Even luckier is that I didn't have to buy the 3G key - my sweet, generous friend Bodil gave me hers after she finished up a research grant in Mali and moved back home!

I remove my SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card from my cell phone and insert another one specifically for the internet.  Then, I load phone credit onto the internet SIM card before replacing it in the USB key (there's a special slot for the SIM card).  Then, I plug the key into the computer, open my internet browser and the browser automatically deducts whatever the rate for internet is that month.  The fee for internet is 9,900 CFA/month but lately Orange has been running 1/2 off specials.  $10 for internet and unlimited Skype calls?  Yes, please!
Remove my cell phone SIM card to replace with internet SIM card

Add credit to internet SIM card

Make sure I have enough for however much internet is per month

Remove SIM card from phone and return to slot in USB key
Put key into computer and you're ready to buy internet credit and go!

What do you think?  Anyone ever use an internet key like this?  Do you think it is more trouble or less than an internet subscription?


Sean said...

My parents down in Florida do it this way, even with the option of having a cable internet connection. Though they pay by way of monthly bill and the rate is much higher.

Brooke said...

Perhaps they should reduce your bill in return for the promotional campaign you're running ;)

Jennifer said...

Sean - is it more expensive than in Mali but less expensive than a monthly plan in the States? Neat - I'd never heard about it in the US before. And Dr. Donaldson - I will try and find their English representative to discuss my promotional campaign :) Could be hard to find!

AJ said...

Had average success with the Orange key out Sikasso way jan- march 20011. Skype impossible, FB Only some days. Email was great but better compress pictures as if not, you can't load them well. Hope it improves before I get back this fall.

Jennifer said...

AJ, i hope so for you, too. Bamako must be a different experience (my key is wired for use in Bamako only though maybe it works outside, I haven't tried). Skype (no video) works great for me and internet access is usually reliable. good luck, thanks for reading!

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