Lonestar Vs. Cellcom – Getting connected

I was in Liberia the first couple of weeks of October of this year, and while I was there I visited Lonestar and Cellcom to get a sense of their internet offers, both mobile and fixed wireless. I wanted to visit Comium and Libtelco, but didn’t have the time. Libtelco does have a better than average website for a Liberian celluar company and you can find their pricing here: http://www.libtelco.com.lr/rates.html. The main point of this post is to update readers on what Liberia’s two biggest GSM companies are offering in terms of getting you on the internet.

Lonestar Cell:

Data Service on your phone:

Access Point Name: internetlcc
Everything else: leave blank
Length of Time Cost(USD) Limit(Mb) How to Enable
One Hour $0.99 No Limit N/A
One Day $4.99 No Limit Dail *353*1#
One Week $14.99 No Limit Dail *353*2#
One Month $49.99 No Limit Dail *353*3#

You can also dial *353*4# to check your data subscription status and *353*0# to terminate your subscription. Lonestar is also selling USB EDGE Modems for your computer for $40.00.

Fixed Wireless

Lonestar offers the following as part of their iConnect WiMax network, which is only available in Monrovia:

Bandwidth (kbps) Cost per Month
128 $129.00
256 $249.00
512 $449.00
1024 $949.00

Note that it’s not specified how the bandwidth is split upstream/downstream.

Lonestar sells the following devices that you would have to buy to use the iConnect service:

  • USB Dongle – $99.00
  • Tower Max – A stationary receiver, as I recall it can operate at higher speeds than the USB dongle – $159.00
  • WiFi Max – Same as Tower Max but with a built in WiFi access point – $199.00

All of this information was gathered from handouts and fliers at the Lonestar office and talking with Lonestar staff.

Also of note, Lonestar has Liberia’s first mobile money system. Check it out here: http://www.lonestarcell.com/download/Mobile_Money_User_Guide.pdf. For more on Mobile Money you can read a blog post from one of my Liberian colleagues. I also asked Lonestar for a list of the places they had cell towers. I thought this was a reasonable request. Like what if you’re stuck on the road from Fishtown to Harper and need to know which direction to walk in to get a signal. At first they thought I wanted lat,lon coordinates and they acted like this was a big deal, such information seemed super sensitive to them, as though with this knowledge I could bring down their network. Which all seemed rather silly to me. They said they’d send me a list of the towns the towers were in, but never did. I found this on their website which, more or less, answered my question: http://www.lonestarcell.com/page.php?pid=4. According to that page they have 77 villages and cities covered, cover approximately 82% of the Liberian population. They’re list of villages/cities covered is: Careysburg, Brewerville, Kakata, Harbel, Salala, Weala, Gbarnga, Suacoco, Gbatala, Totota, Palala, Bong Mines, Botota, Gold Camp, Ganta, Bahn, Kample, Kissipli, Kpen, Yekepa, Zuwuloo, Sanniquellie, Saclopea, Loguatuo, Tappita, Zwedru, Buchanan and Buchanan LAC, Voinjama, Foyah, Zorzor, Kolahun, Greenville, Yenwhen, Tubmanburg, Robertsport, Medina, Gbah, Sinje, Bo Water Side, Lofa Bridge, Sinoe, Harper, Pleebo, Zweinta, Karweaken Salaye, Vahun, Cesstos, Pleebo, Harper, Fish Town. You might have noticed that they only list 55 places here, and some of them are kind of the same, like listing “Sinoe” and “Greenville”, so I can only assume that this list is not comprehensive of all 77 locations they have.

Cellcom:

Data Service on your phone:

Access Point Name: web.cellcomnet.net
Everything else: leave blank
Length of Time Cost(USD) Limit(Mb) How to Enable
One Day $6.00 100 Dail *4777#
One Week $20.00 250 Dail *4777#
One Month $60.00 1000 Dail *4777#

When I was at Cellcom they were running a deal where you would get a EDGE USB modem, that the flier said, “3G+ ready”, presumably indicating the modem could handle 3G if the network were also 3G, and one months worth of data for $49.00. The flier also said you get a “20% discount on all data packages”, so that’s nice.

I know the limits Cellcom enforces have caused problems for my friends who use the USB Modems for internet on their computers, but if you’re just checking email on your phone, maybe looking at a map or two, and looking at basic, websites, you should be able to stay under them.

Fixed Wireless

Cellcom offers the following as part of their fixed wireless network, which is only available in Monrovia:

Bandwidth (kbps) Cost per Month
128 $170.00
256 $330.00
512 $720.00

Just like Lonestar, Cellcom does not specified how the bandwidth is split upstream/downstream.

Cellcom charges $390.00 to setup and install their fixed wireless service at your location.

All of this information was gathered from handouts and fliers at the Cellcom office and talking with Cellcom staff.

I also asked Cellcom staff for a list of the places they had cell towers, and they reacted just like Lonestar, first acting like that was a major security breach and then promising to send me something and never doing it. I looked over their website for a listing of places covered and couldn’t find anything.

Things to Keep in Mind

With lower costs and no usage limits it would seem that Lonestar is the clear winner here. However, as anyone who’s lived in Liberia knows, the real issue is reliability. How many hours and days of the month will your service be down, how often will it be so slow that it’s unusable? On this trip I didn’t have time to perform any tests to determine these factors.

Later,

 

 

This entry was posted in ICT, Liberia. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Lonestar Vs. Cellcom – Getting connected

  1. Sabrina says:

    Hi,
    We just got a 3G internet subscription. Roughly, internet in Liberia seems 16 times more expensive than in Tanzania (best comparable to the cellcom)!! We’re excited to test the purchase at our house next week. Let’s see if we actually get 3G or are downgraded to EDGE all the time.

  2. iMrAn says:

    Hi there, it’s indeed a good piece of information especially once you’re out of reach from Monrovia. I wanna internet with adequate speed in Harper, any option to this except SmartPhone ??

  3. Jaclyn Carlsen says:

    John, you’re the best. I’m headed to Lonestar tomorrow to check on any pricing updates, but wanted to have some information before I went. Thanks for sharing the data prices with the world.

  4. Lawrence P maurice says:

    PCKAGES BANDWIDTH TENURE PRICE
    LITE 128 KBPS 1 MONTH $69.00

    REGULAR 256 KBPS 1 MONTH $199.00

    CLASSIC 512 KBPS 1 MIONTH $399.00

    PREMIUM 1 MB 1 MONTH $899.00

    DEVICES

    USB MAX $90.00

    TOWERMAX $130.00
    WIFI MAX $180.00

    HES-309M(OUT DOOR CPE) $220.00

    USB MAX PROMOTION
    USB MAX PLUS 1 MONTH BUNDLE (128kbps)
    $ 99.00

  5. Erik Kumlin says:

    Lonestar, cellcom comium all have divided up the market for internet in Liberia
    I expected that when they launched the fast internet that we would be hitting speeds over 1 megabit download speed for less than a hundred dollars usd a month, but i´m not surprised that it has not happened.
    Only in Liberia can you get away with stealing from the Liberian people providing basic services.
    Here in Europe we are hitting speeds over 5mb in our mobile networks for 60 usd a month. Many networks have 6 GB download data a month but there are also unlimited data downloads available at a reasonable cost.

    It should be considered illegal to price internet at such.
    The cell communication companies have bought of the politicians to maintain the high prices for the poor services they provide. You figure that the internet would be cheaper now that they have connected to the cable in the Atlantic now that they are not using satellites for the data but i guess its it is business as usual in Liberia. I feel for the Liberia people. If this was America or Europe there would be a investigation and a lot of people would end up in jail. For my self
    I.ve bought a V-sat dish. 1 pay 128usd a month and get 300kb download and no hassles. I have had somebad experience with Cellcom in Liberia and will never buy anything from them again. There customer service sucks. They sold me a modem and i could not get any speed on it. When i tested it it showed 5 kb download and 1 kilobyte upload.
    I returned the next day the office and wanted to return the modem. They refused to give me my money back so i said that they should increase the speed on the network they refused that too. An ignorant employe commented as an excuse that this is a third world country. I refused to take no for answer and stirred up a lot trouble accusing them very loudly of stealing from the Liberian people at there costumer care center that someone in the office realized that it would better to give my money back so they did. I.m returing to Liberia soon and hope things have improved but im not counting on it.

    • etherton says:

      Well Erik, I’m afraid I have to agree with the “ignorant employee” you encountered. Liberia is a nation that is struggling to rebuild itself and hasn’t worked out all the kinks. As such the internet is quite slow. Also, though the ACE cable is physically present in Liberia, however, it will not be turned on until the cable has been completely installed in all other countries. Thus the cable won’t come on for a few more months, and doesn’t affect the price of internet now. Even when the internet is turned on, the same few companies that control the majority of internet will control the cable, so unless the LTA and the GoL work to create a competitive market, there’s no reason these companies can’t create a monopoly. So let’s hope and pray they don’t do that.

      I’m certain Liberia will improve, but it may not improve as quickly as you’d like.

      Finally, from whom did you buy a 300kb VSAT for $128USD? That seems like a great deal.