Mobile Internet growing in Uganda

The Internet landscape in Uganda is gradually shifting from traditional fixed access to mobile wireless access, a top Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) official said.

Quoting figures from a quarterly report that is yet to be released, Fred Otunnu, the UCC's communications and consumer affairs manager, said the shift is a direct result of operators investing millions of dollars into network upgrades.

According to the report, Otunnu said, there were 175,568 active mobile Internet users in Uganda between January and March 2008. These users accessed the Internet through either data-enabled handsets or at fixed WiFi hotspots.

Though Infocom made the first foray into mobile Internet in 2006 with hotspots in Kampala, mobile Internet was only widely introduced in Uganda in June 2007 through MTN's launch of Mobile Office. Therefore, comparative user data is not available for the first quarter of 2007.

MTN Mobile Office enables subscribers to access their e-mail accounts, calendars and contacts, as well as surf the Internet, from anywhere at anytime using a mobile phone, laptop or desktop.

At the time of its launch, MTN Chief Commercial Officer Eric van Veen had predicted the success of the company's mobile offering, while Uganda Telecom officials made similar predictions last month with the launch of a 3G service.

"There are people out there who need to maintain mobility, even when they get out of the formal office environment, and that is the market we are targeting with this service," said Uganda Telecom's business development manager, Farouk Kiwala.

Infocom has also widened the reach of its mobile Internet offerings over the past year, with the expansion of WiMax and the introduction of a new broadband offering called SpeedMax.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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