Using a USB Modem to Get Online in Kigali

Not everyone can afford to sit in Shokola or Bourbon every day for hours and hours to soak up their free wifi and I’m pretty sure their staff are sick of seeing some of our faces day in, day out. Not mine, of course (although there was that one time I sat so long at Bourbon that I was asked to leave).

Setting up a wifi connection in your own house is a an option but it’s probably only practical if you plan to stick around awhile. Plus when the power goes out, so does your wifi connection which could become very frustrating in a city where power cuts are an issue.

USB modems are the alternative way of getting online when there’s no wifi signal floating through wherever you happen to be. They’re great because you can get online from virtually anywhere that gets a mobile phone connection. You’re no longer chained to places with wifi… internet freedom! Unlocked USB modems will work or if  you haven’t got an unlocked on, you’ll need to buy a modem from whichever network you plan to use.

In Rwanda you have three options that match up with the three mobile phone carriers: MTN, Rwandatel, and Tigo. You buy the modem, a SIM card to go in the modem, have them set it all up for you and then pay either a monthly flat rate or pay for the data as you use it. Here’s a rundown of your three options.


Modem: Rwf 20,000 Sim Card: Rwf 1,000

5 MB: 150 50 MB: 1,500 250 MB: 6,000 500 MB: 10,000 1 G: 17,000 5 G: 30,000

MTN used to have a monthly plan that only cost Rwf 18,000 a month. That was discontinued while they update their network but some lucky people who got onto the plan before it was canceled are still able to wrangle that great price. Currently they only offer a pay-as-you-go plan that costs 17,000 for a gigabyte. My housemate is careful with his internet use (doesn’t download music or movies but Skypes occasionally) and he makes this last an entire month. If you are a heavy user and don’t want to worry too much about your usage then paying 30,000 for 5 gigabytes would probably suit most people for a month. The main problem is that the 5G expires after 30 days.


Modem: Rwf 23,500 Sim Card: Rwf 1,000

Rwandatel offer a monthly payment plan but it’s super expensive at Rwf 41,300. It is nice not having to worry about the amount of data being used and this plan would be good for a heavy user who also plans on Skyping and downloading things. Might as well milk the unlimited plan for all it’s worth since you’re certainly paying a lot for it. I was on their monthly plan in July/August and it sucked badly. It would hardly ever connect and frustrated the hell out of me. But once my month was over I guess they didn’t turn it off so I milked my free magic internet for a bit longer to make up for the crap service in the first month. So beware that service might be crap but that you might also get magic internet if you can handle the frustration. They also offer data plans which star at 30 a megabyte.


Modem: Rwf  Sim Card: Rwf

500 MB: 10,000 2 G: 20,000 8 G: 40,000

Tigo offer three plans of various sizes and their prices are competitive. They also allow the balance to roll over to the next month if you don’t use all of the data you paid for. I guess the downside is having to commit to two months up front. I haven’t heard much about the quality of Tigo’s service so pipe up if you use them and let us all know what you think!

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.