Staying connected – made easier in Dar es Salaam


(Posted 09th December 2014)

Travelling often exposes the soft underbelly of the concept of staying connected 24/7, as frequent travelers well know. After leaving either the office or the home, where connectivity is of course guaranteed, and enroute to the airport, still connected to one of the national networks via a data bundle service or by BlackBerry – yes those still exist very much – allows for uninterrupted service to the point of boarding the aircraft, with free WiFi often thrown in for good and extra measure by airport operators or the premium lounges.

After boarding though the problems already begin to show. While still on the ground are national networks or airport WiFi still accessible, until the crew insist that the devices should be turned off for taxi and take off. Then, in most cases anyway, are connectivity addicts ‘grounded’ until they deplane at the other end of the journey. Some airlines have started to offer inflight connectivity, Kenya Airways for instance on their new B787 Dreamliner fleet offers WiFi when the aircraft reaches 10.000 feet and a number of Gulf airlines, but also some of the European and American legacy carriers are said to be progressively rolling out inflight connectivity, all against an at times very hefty fee for that matter. That, when more widely available, will take care of staying connected even mid-air, until the destination airport is reached. There, in some cases, is free WiFi in the terminal available, but then the problem starts of how to stay connected once outside, in a cab or in a limo enroute to the hotel or resort or when riding a train to reach the end of the journey.

Using Fab Cars in Dar es Salaam though took care of that worry, as their limos do have wireless connectivity and not just any but the lastest 4G technology provided by Smile Telecoms, which originates in South Africa but has established a strong subscriber base in Tanzania and Uganda too.

The limos, provided by the organizers of the Swahili Fashion Week (which was the talk of Dar es Salaam last weekend) to key guests through a sponsorship deal with Fab Cars was this form of ‘connected transfers’ to the hotel providing literally seamless connectivity from the airport to the hotel and vice versa, which both ways was well over an hour and a half’s drive during which urgent mails and messages could be seen and responded to.

Across the Eastern African region have some bus companies covering long distance routes installed WiFi and in Kigali have a number of city busses too started to provide the service, as have some in Nairobi but by and large is there a deficit in connectivity for key sections of one’s journey.

BlackBerry on occasions does not work, in some countries at least, and legally binding registration requirements for Sim cards and the subsequent purchase of data bundles to stay connected on a spare mobile phone –without having to remove the home Sim cards which reduces connectivity even more – often result in this being done only after reaching the hotel, or in some cases not at all.

Roaming with data services of course should be avoided at almost all cost, as the bills are often phenomenal and only hit when weeks afterwards appearing on the phone bills, too late to do anything about it. Thankfully have most hotels and resorts these days moved from charging for WiFi moved to providing free WiFi, with a few exceptions like the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi which is notorious for slapping guest with a 1.000 Kenya Shillings bill for a 24 hour period, making it cheaper to purchase a dongle from one of the several mobile phone companies which on promotion goes for as little as 999 Kenya Shillings with a few GB thrown in for good measure. (As dongles are powered by Sim cards those devices too must be registered requiring a picture ID to prevent cybercrime and help police identify fraudsters and worse)

Clearly has Fab Cars seen a niche where clients in need to stay connected actually now can, on airport transfers but also when using a limo to reach venues for meetings, or when simply going sightseeing in air-conditioned style.

And for that service element, which considerably reduced an otherwise only too common headache, I simply have to thank them and let everyone know that this service now does exist for visitors coming to Dar es Salaam.

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