Somebody must have put Benin Telecom’s feet to the fire because they’ve launched a series of impressive initiatives to lower the price of bandwidth for Beninese consumers. They have:
- doubled the bandwidth for all DSL consumers. That means users who were paying 25 000 FCFA ($50) for 256 kbs are now getting 512. Users who were paying 80 000 FCFA ($160) for 512 now get 1Mbs. Pretty impressive.
- repaired the WiMax network, and we are now getting the 256 kbs that we pay 25 000 FCFA ($50) for, even during peak periods.
- launched a new CDMA service (Kanakoo Liberté), promising users download speeds of up to 3.1 mbs for 15 000 FCFA ($30) a month. The USB key to access the CDMA service is 45 000 FCFA ($90).
Suspicious of the good news, I borrowed a new Liberté modem from a friend and spent the weekend putting the service through its paces.
Benin Telecom’s customer service is horrifically bad. As in, I called and asked what the password to connect is, and they told me that not only is there not a password, but that I must be doing something wrong if the software’s asking me for one. A few emails to the Beninese tech community later, and I had a solution. Yes, there is a password, and yes, it’s the same password for every modem: 11111111. Don’t lose it, y’all.
This modem, unlike the previous Kanakoo version, works with Ubuntu out of the box. No more mucking around with wvdial. This is huge, as none of the GSM modems play well with Linux.
The modem consistently downloads at 600kbs. I got speeds of up to 1.2 mbs off-peak. Not as good as 3.1m, but definitely better than 256k.
I’m hesitant to call the new service an unmitigated success because I was in love with WiMax until Benin Telecoms overloaded the network, and oh! hey! weekly (sometimes daily) downtime is awesome. So let’s call this a reserved recommendation. It’s cheap enough to make it worth a try.