Tag Archives: internet

MTN’s “Unlimited” Limited Internet

I’ve been on the wrong side of various service providers as a result of my open expression of experiences while consuming services. It therefore came as a surprise when MTN Uganda called me up and requested that I try out the MTN Unlimited Internet Premium service.

Unlimited is a term that essentially means unrestricted, unconfined, boundless or infinite. So, in the real sense of the word, this service is not really unlimited. The package offers you internet access of upto 3 Gb on a daily basis. So, there is actually a limit only that it’s quite high for the average Joe to fully consume.

Being one with a mobile office, I rely a lot on mobile internet services to render my services. I must admit that I was one of those who were skeptical about this MTN offer until I tried it out.

In my days as a kid, I always demanded stuff like sweets from dad and mom whenever the opportunity presented itself. Today, my children demand data !!!! It is so serious that even when I claim not to have data, they mobilise resources among themselves and load a data package to see them through for a day or so. The kind of game apps they access can strain the regular data packages. This is another reason why I gladly wanted to test this service. How easy is it to deplete the 3Gb allotted daily?

I gave my family the challenge to deplete the daily allotted data and this meant unrestricted use of the internet. Where I used to limit them watching videos and TV shows online, this time round, they had a blank slate. They could hardly believe their ears. We all tried and worked towards this feat without success.

My initial observations show that it’s an always on service with much less downtime than my traditional data provider.

Consuming 3Gb of data is no mean feat especially if you’re not the type to always be at the computer. I tried watching all sorts of videos, encouraged my children to play online games, watch online study lessons, chose to upgrade software but alas, still failed.

This data service works well for urban connectivity, however, in rural settings, there are still challenges. I’m writing this article on a sojourn in Butaleja district and have had to do without internet while in my gardens and at home. Most urban dwellers can do with just about any service provider since their services are usually decent in such locations. It takes one a journey to rural locales to establish whether your data service is worth its salt. MTN Uganda has to find ways of improving 3G coverage nationwide.

There has always been this talk of lost data and I blogged about it before. It’s still a big problem apparently. I can authoritatively state that six (6) out of ten people I have interacted with have complaints about unexplained data loss. As a matter of fact, I personally transitioned from buying monthly data bundles to daily ones simply because of the ease of monitoring my data consumption. Imagine loading 1Gb of data for a month and by the third day it’s finished.

If you’re a power user and want to save yourself the data loss gymnastics, then I strongly believe opting for this “Unlimited” MTN Service is ideal. The cost of UGX 330,000/= monthly for the Premium option however leaves me wondering whether it is pocket friendly enough. However, there is the Basic option that goes for UGX 179,000/=. Maybe, I will consider subscribing for the latter.

Overall, my experience tells me, the MTN “Unlimited” Internet is worth having for the internet savvy.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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Free MyUG WiFi? Kifeesi to go Online

Kifeesi is a renowned criminal gang in Kampala city that has baffled the minds of many. Their daring moves at carrying out broad day light robberies in the busy downtown spots without fear of the law enforcement officers have raised many eye brows. Like the ruthless Mungiki of Kenya, Kifeesi could easily be rated as a younger sibling or rather a Mungiki wannabe. NBS Tv did a good investigation on this gang here.

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Kifeesi Criminals arrested. Courtesy picture from Eagle Online

Crime is crime. A criminal mind is always ready to operate anywhere for as long as the terrain is conducive. The recent announcement by the Minister of Information Communication Technology and National Guidance about the free offer of WiFi internet access in Kampala has been met with mixed opinions. Many urban dwelling Ugandans have taken on the use of the internet with a lot of zeal over the past five years. Facebook and WhatsApp seem to have the lion’s share of activity. Free WiFi is seen as “manna from heaven.”

unnamed-2Accessing the free WiFi in Kampala entails being within an area that has the signal hence allowing your phone or mobile gadget to connect. The hotspots have been spread in certain locations for starters with others to follow suit later. As a first time user, you are expected to submit some profile information and then get access thereafter. In keeping with the expectations of Hon. Father Lokodo the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, no pornography shall be accessible.

Now to Kifeesi. I foresee a re-invention of Kifeesi as this WiFi takes root. A Kifeesi that will no longer be content about merely stealing your phone or robbing you of that pocket change. This Kifeesi is IT savvy. Their goal is to either;

  • Steal your online identity or

  • Con your online friends or

  • Rob your bank account or

  • Blackmail you or

  • Settle scores

How is the new Kifeesi likely to do it?

By identifying a public area that people frequent to access free WiFi, all they need to do is set up rogue WiFi hotspots that have eerily similar names like those of the official HotSpot provider. If the HotSpots by NITA-U are named MyUG (for example’s sake), Kifeesi can setup MyUG1 and then link that hotspot to the internet.

The unsuspecting public will innocently hook onto that hotspot and start chatting away using all sorts of social media utilities (encrypted and unencrypted). Before you know it, you’re availing Kifeesi a lot of information about yourself and others you interact with. What they do with that information is dependent on how much they are willing to go after you. Your login credentials to access various online services can easily be harvested and either sold on the online blackmarket or even used to rob you or endanger others.

Kifeesi Victim

Let us take the case of a one Natabo. She works for a leading bank and is a top level manager. She gets duped into using the Kifeesi WiFi. She quickly gets into her Facebook account, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp. As she interacts with her online community of friends, the Kifeesi hotspot is logging all her traffic to and from the internet while diverting it to a separate location for further analysis. After a “nice” time chatting online, she chooses to check her bank email before leaving and this involves logging into the system. Again, her information is logged.

This is phase one for Kifeesi and so far, some success has been registered. Now is the time to go to the next step.

Kifeesi in Action

With basic tools got online, the Kifeesi crew sifts through Natabo’s data and extracts all sorts of unencrypted information that it uses to build a profile of who she is. With sniffed logins and passwords, they are able to undertake further access to her numerous online accounts. The killer comes in when they access her bank email. There-in lies confidential corporate data on various key client accounts as well as the internal workings of the bank.

Kifeesi Next Steps

With the gathered credentials so far, Kifeesi can choose to trade the confidential bank information got from her email to the competition. This is one of the ways industrial espionage takes place of late.

Natabo’s friends can be duped using the various social media accounts into undertaking certain financial transactions under the guise of dealing with her.

Natabo’s secret chats, photo exchanges among others could easily be used to blackmail her into paying a ransom to Kifeesi or else she faces tabloid exposure.

Natabo’s friends could be lured into appointments that could endanger them. The end result would be robbery or even physical harm like rape.

And much more.

Exercise Caution

As you spring out to partake of the free MyUG WiFi, exercise caution. Do not just log onto any hotspot that remotely resembles the official hotspots in name. Ensure that you carefully study the WiFi to be connected to. This will reduce on your level of susceptibility to fraud.

By doing that, you and me can manage the emerging online Kifeesi.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

The MTN NightShift Robbery – #MTNDataBlackHoles

Two years ago I took keen interest in Astronomy and even went ahead to purchase a telescope just to fulfill my dream of being a self taught astronomer. However, it’s until I joined a WhatsApp group of Astronomers that I begun walking the talk. In the process, I have learnt a lot and one of the most peculiar things I have found about our universe is the Black Holes.

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even particles and light can not get out. As you may recall, gravity is the force that attracts one body towards another that has mass, akin to what makes us always naturally stay on the ground as opposed to floating all over the place.

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Illustration of a Blackhole

Due to the intense gravitational force that blackholes have, whatever criss crosses their path is always devoured, unless of course if it can travel at a speed faster than light. It’s the reason they have earned themselves the name Cosmic Cannibals.They devour whatever they come across since theoretically, nothing can move faster than the speed of light.

Wondering what this lecture on Astronomy has to do with MTN Uganda? Well, read on.

As an avid internet user, I was one of those that enthusiastically embraced the advent of the Night Shift Data packages that were pioneered by the then Orange Telecom (Now Africell). When MTN Uganda introduced a similar package, I simply came on board since I always needed a backup in case one provider misbehaved.

What is Night Shift? This is a data bundle package that gives you 1GB data access to the internet between Midnight and 6am daily on the MTN network.

As a night shift user, you re expected to start operating from Midnight of any given day until 6am in the morning of that same day. This offer is very lucrative especially for the data greedy guys like me. At the cost of less than a dollar, I find it one of the best deals that give me a great opportunity to utilise my weekend night time within the confines of my home.

In the course of it’s usage, I usually finished my data package by 4am but when I started off going all the way till 6am, a worrying trend begun surfacing. Somehow after 5am, connectivity begun to get interrupted and for a while I blamed myself and my gadgets. Then I once heard from someone else complaining about a similar experience I was all too familiar with. That is when I decided to call up my skills as an ISP techie. At least I knew how to traceroute, ping, nslookup (made obsolete by dig) as well as sniff and decode traffic in Hex.

On the 6th of September 2015, while following up with MTN on the case of a user who had experienced a shock after the Night Shift service apparently ‘expired’, I received a report from MTN indicating the usage which revealed that she had used 332.844 Mbs and had a balance of 667.156 Mbs at the time of expiry. This got me fired up to verify whether it was a one off problem or a consistent con unknown to MTN customers.

I tested for a couple of nights and my findings were as follows;

  • 0000 to 0500 hours – Great connectivity, you surf the way you like without any interruptions. Downloads work like a charm.

  • 0500 to 0600 hours – Interrupted connectivity. The system is designed not to allow you to make complete downloads as you keep getting disconnected. Another feature at this time are the false triggers of the Bundle being used up (a big hoax).

MTN Uganda for sure is aware that for the average consumer, they will believe all they see and consider that the problem is on their part. Calling customer care, you are belittled by their kind of patronising language that brands you guilty until proven innocent. I once had to do the unusual and arrogantly assure one of the wannabe techies that I’ve been there done that when it comes to Internet Systems while he was still getting padded in diapers.

The Screenshots that follow attest to the extensive work I did to follow up the issue with MTN Uganda.

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The anger levels were way up there.

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Feeling helpless, I resigned to giving them a piece of my mind.

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After the promise they made on the 12th of September 2015 to follow up, I received no response until I prompted them on the 4th of October 2015.

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In this message, MTN admitted that they do have a problem. It therefore came as a shocker to me when I saw a recent post by a fellow tweep complaining about a silimar issue and I was CCed in the ensuing fray.

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I then chose to remind MTN of their unfulfilled promise and they shocked me with the response below.

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To be honest, either people think along parallel lines at MTN or there is someone very incompetent who seems to be content with mediocrity. This is when the likes of Mr. Eric Van Veen are greatly missed.

Now these are direct questions I have to MTN UGanda;

  1. Why do we lose our data inexplicably?
  2. Why is the loss consistent?
  3. Why have you failed to come out and address your customers on this issue?
  4. Are you having staff within the company who conveniently hide information from the top honchos?
  5. Is there an internal data thieving racket whose aim is to rob we the legitimate customers of our data bundles?
  6. Why are you foot dragging? Is it because the loss isn’t on your side?

Whatever that #DataBlackHole is at MTN Uganda, it’s definitely not a Stellar Mass Black Hole but a Super Massive Black Hole that makes a joke of the one at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. As for now, I want to warn any MTN Night Shift customer to desist from using the service beyond 5am as you will risk entering the Event Horizon of that blackhole. Use up your data bundle before that time to avoid being cheated.

Over to you MTN Uganda

If you have been a victim of this, contact me with your details so I can prepare a protest letter to the Uganda Communications Commission on this issue.

 

Undermine Social media to your Peril

The use of Social media beyond gossip is taking root in Uganda and this has been exhibited by it’s growing use for social causes. This serves to remind the fence sitters that it’s time to realise that you either jump onboard or get left by the bus. More in this article.

The #HelpRosemary Campaign conducted using Social Media

The #HelpRosemary Campaign conducted using Social Media

Uganda’s Law Protects the Online Consumer

As a consumer of Online services in Uganda, it is common to find people cursing their providers and vowing to move on to the next one. Many will tell you to ‘vote with your money’ by ceasing to pay for poor services, which is a good thing. But are you aware that Uganda has laws that can effectively allow you to get justice as an aggrieved consumer? Find out more in this article.

Procurement Mess in Uganda – The Case of the National Fibre Backbone

I have always been hesitant to come out and complain on each and every thing I hear going wrong with the handling of our ICT related projects in Uganda but it seems like the situation has hit pandemic levels. Like HIV/AIDS, this is now turning out to be a life long disease for our brethren manning the relevant civil service dockets.

On the 2nd of September 2013, I stumbled across a news article in the New Vision Newspaper titled “AG cites Loopholes in Fibre Optic Deal” by Steven Candia. As a keen industry observer I wasn’t too surprised. I had seen many flags raised on this project through the online I-Network discussion forum of the Ugandan ICT fraternity but nevertheless, I got shocked by some of the findings of the Attorney General. These include;

“The feasibility study for the National Backbone Infrastructure/E-Government Infrastructure (NBI/EGI) project was done after signing the contract.” With all due respect, I wonder how any sane person who has the slightest idea of Government Procurement rules can entertain such an action that skips basic procedure and not have the guts to resign from their job. Anyone who probably okayed such a process in my view should even be ashamed to call themselves educated at the least. Why was there a lot of haste in doing this? Was it a crisis? A project that took years to accomplish didn’t deserve taking such shortcuts unless of course if certain interests were at play. Unfortunately, when the decision makers are put to task (if the Parliament ever chooses to do so), the pedestrian answer will be; “Orders from above”. Now we all know how this statement has been manipulated to suit the interests of a selfish few.

“There was an untrained feasibility study team.” A lookup on the definition of feasibility study reveals; “feasibility study is an evaluation and analysis of the potential of the proposed project which is based on extensive investigation and research to support the process of decision making” – Wikipedia. How do you get an unknowledgeable person to carry out such a study on a highly technical project like this? How will the decision makers be best guided when the so called technocrats to be relied upon are nothing but mere uninformed wannabe consultants? Shame … A very big shame to whoever selected this team.

“There was no evaluation criteria for the proposal submitted by HUAWEI.”  By definition, “Evaluation criteria are standards that are used to assess how well an offer meets the agency’s requirements. They provide a mechanism for comparing offers by assessing the relative worth of different offers.” Someone is either too daft to understand the job they are doing or we are being taken for a ride. How do you procure something or accept a proposal when you don’t even have any criteria in place? When local businesses approach Government for work they are trashed and sidelined based on the complex processes that are usually structured to conveniently edge us out. I shudder to imagine that a multi-million dollar deal like this one could be processed without following proper due diligence. Was it a mistake? No. Someone must have been a beneficiary of all this ambiguity.

Other notable findings were;

  • Lack of evaluation of the proposed cable
  • Substandard Civil works. Cable that should have been laid 1.2 meters below the ground was largely not more than 0.5m below. Why was there no supervision? Who signed off this work? Were the contractors poorly paid by HUAWEI thereby leading them into cutting corners? (I actually got first hand information from some contractors about the stringent payment terms of HUAWEI)
  • Lack of quality assurance by sub contractors. This role couldn’t have been left to the subcontractor alone. HUAWEI as the contracting company should have played a lead role here to ensure that those that executed the work on the ground adhered to certain basics.
  • Government did not specify the requirements in the form of Terms of Reference for the project prior to contracting HUAWEI but only relied on the MoU. Could it be that our officials get start struck or numb when they interact with foreigners especially white skinned people? How else can someone explain such an oversight?

From a bungled up NBI/EGI project, a staggering National ID project to a heavily manipulated Integrated Financial Management Systems (IFMS), our folk in the corridors of power seem not to appreciate the basics of proper project planning and management and very soon we might hear them justifying the hiring of a global Project Management firm to help us deliver on these seemingly good initiatives that are always going wrong.

It is also prudent that our government wakes up to the realization that most of these things we are seeking from the outside world can actually be managed and implemented locally with ease. We spend a lot of time being fed on the propaganda of Ugandan Youths being prepared to do outsourcing jobs for countries in Europe and America but charity begins at home. Why doesn’t the Government start by outsourcing to us before it expects foreign companies to trust us? Over to you Ministry of ICT and NITA-U.

Always @wirejames on #Twitter