Guide to choosing service provider (SIM card) in Uganda

sim card validation exercise service provider

Telecom companies in Uganda might be few but choosing the right service provider (SIM card) for you is as complex as it can get.

Examples of these licensed service providers include MTN Uganda, Airtel Uganda, Africell Uganda, Uganda Telecom, Smile, K2 and others.

Despite their small number, the competition is relatively stiff with each company struggling to maintain its market share as it attracts new customers.

The top three telecom service providers in Uganda are MTN, Airtel, and Africell, in that order, boasting larger subscribers and more popularity.

According to a 2017 UCC report on the state of mobile phone subscriptions, MTN Uganda dominates the market share with around 56%, Airtel Uganda comes in as second with 31% followed by Africell Uganda with 11%.

For some users, the choice on which company to go with might be as easy as choosing that with the largest market share because the bigger the market share, the greater the faith the public has.

But for others, this decision is complex and here’s how it can be broken down;

The main factors of concern when making your choice can be either network coverage, internet speed, internet speeds, voice and internet bundles, money transaction services and others. These are explained in detail below;

Service provider (SIM card) network coverage

This is the first factor every user should consider, a service provider (SIM card)  with more network coverage should be preferred because it means better voice calls and better internet.

MTN and Airtel cover a relatively wider network coverage as compared with others. For those planning to travel or live in remote areas of Uganda, network coverage will be the deal breaker for you.

Internet speed of service provider (SIM card)

For a dominant internet user, you ought to find out which network coverage is available in your area prior to committing yourself to a particular service provider(SIM card).

4G LTE is currently the network standard for all networks in Uganda and anything below it is unacceptable in this age especially for those leaving in the central region.

MTN’s 4G network allows internet speeds between 2Mbps and 100Mbps. All the big three telecom companies offer 4G services.

Around mid-June, Airtel had the widest 4G coverage, however, you’ll realize that a given SIM card will perform better than the other, depending on location.

Airtel and MTN have tried to cover all the major cities in the country with 4G network.

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SIM card price

Unfortunately, the SIM card price is relatively even for some service providers in Uganda.

The difference in the amount might be as low as Shs500(US$0.1) which is a negligible amount considering it’s a one-time purchase.

However, Africell Uganda beats all and provides a SIM card free of charge to anyone willing to join their service.

Mobile money/money transfers

All the top 3 telecoms provide money transfer services with MTN’s mobile money having the largest number of transactions followed by Airtel.

MTN’s mobile money service users have an advantage not only because of a large number of users of the service but also because the service allows you to send money to other networks.

Charges on money transfer services are relatively similar for all networks.

Promotional offers

All telecoms run attractive promotional offers for calls, SMS, and internet.

MTN and Airtel come up with new offers every now and then as Africell mostly sits on the sidelines and makes counter offers to base on what these two have provided.

For International voice bundle offers, Airtel charges the least.

For same network voice bundles, Africell charges the least.

For unlimited internet bundles, MTN charges the least.

For weekly internet bundles, Airtel charges the least.

Below are the popular promotional offers for each network in detail.

Popular MTN Uganda offers

With as low as Shs3000 (US$0.8), you can get up to 10 minutes valid for 24 hours to call Kenya or Rwanda or South Sudan.

With just Shs2200 ($0.6), you get 10 minutes valid for 7 days to call the USA. With as low as Shs3500, you get 10 minutes valid for 7 days to call France, Australia, Norway, Pakistan, Denmark, and Japan.

With MTN Go bundles, you can get up to 25 MTN to MTN minutes, 5 local minutes to other networks, 30 SMS and 30MBs valid for a day for as low as Shs2500.

MTN also offers unique internet bundle offers every Wednesday in it GAGA promotional offer valid for 24hours.

These Wednesday offers usually change each week and sometimes even change in a matter of hours. Examples of such gaga offer is the popular 4GB at Shs4000 ($1).

Popular Airtel Uganda offers

Airtel Uganda delivers cheaper international calling offers, giving users up to 10 minutes at as low as Shs2800 to call their friends and family in areas of Kenya, Rwanda, and South Sudan valid for a day.

Shs5000 gets you up to 30 minutes for calls valid for a week to countries like USA, India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

The same amount gives you 20 minutes valid for a week to call UK, Germany, Pakistan, Thailand, Denmark, Japan, Australia, and other countries in Europe and South Asia.

Airtel provides cheaper weekly internet bundles such as 1GB at Shs7000 and Shs1000 for the same amount of data valid for one month.

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Popular Africell Uganda offers

Africell voice bundles can be the very best for those looking to make same network calls (Africell to Africell).

They currently run the Paka Boom offer that credits users with unlimited Africell to Africell calls at just Shs1000 valid for a day and Shs5000 gets you unlimited Africell to Africell calls valid for a week and this same offer is provided for a month at only Shs12000.

For just Shs1000, you can get up to 10 minutes of international minutes to call USA, Canada, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, UK, and India.

Africell also runs a counteractive Wednesday internet offer in which it usually gives customers 500MBs more than what MTNs offers for its GAGA promotion at the same price.

Theirs is called the Don’t Be Cheated.

The Verdict

All service providers (SIM cards) have counter offers for each of the services they provided.

To make a better decision, you can choose based on your contact list to enjoy those same network offers or choose basing on the service you plan on using most.

The advantage of owning a dual sim phone is that it allows you to choose two telecom networks.

One can be for calls and the other for internet.

Most users choose a service provider based on a promotional offer running and 6 months later when the promotion ends, they find themselves rushing elsewhere.


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