a guide to mobile internet in egypt

in the us, you can have an unlimited data plan with most of the mobile carriers (well, there’s now a 200 mb (or 2gb) cap on at&t (depending on how much you pay)). since i didn’t use my phone for tethering in the us, my monthly usage usually didn’t exceed 200mb/month. coming to egypt, i hoped to have mobile internet (to be able to get emails as they come, etc). here’s what i found:

on your laptop

for mobile internet (on a laptop, etc), all three providers have usb 3g internet modems with data plans. your best bet is etisalat as it offers the highest data usage before the “fair use policy” kicks in (before your speed gets restricted to 56kbps) - unless you don’t mind paying the extra money to vodafone for the faster speed. avoid the “pay as you go” or “prepaid” data plans. the monthly “unlimited” plans are in the ballpark of 150-300LE/month (depending on the speed and provider).

  • vodafone - 200LE/mo unlimited (4gb cap, then 64kbps), or 250LE/mo (faster, 6gb cap, then 64kbps).
  • mobinil - 150LE/mo for 3gb. each additional mb is 0.25LE.
  • etisalat - 150LE/mo unlimited (384kbps, 6gb cap, then 64kbps), or 300LE/mo (faster, up to 7.2mbps, 6 gb cap, then 64kbps).

these guys also have capped-postpaid data plans (500mb/mo for 43LE with vodafone or 50LE with mobinil). see their websites for more details.

note that you can pull out the sim card from the usb modem and put it in your cellphone. also note that the usb modem i got from etisalat worked both under mac (out of the box) and linux (with minor configurations on ubuntu lucid).

on mac, after their application sets up the internet preferences, close their application and connect directly from the internet connections pane. their app uses a lot of resources (in addition to the large amount of resources used by the modem itself).

on your mobile

  1. all three carriers (vodafone, mobinil, and etisalat) offer some limited internet plan on the normal pay-as-you-go voice sim card. for vodafone, it’s 1LE for 3 mb with 1 mb for each additional mb. mobilnil and etisalat charge 1LE for 5mb, with 5LE for each additional mb. both these plans reset daily (ie it resets daily and you pay each new day that you use data).
  1. if you don’t want this model (trust me, you don’t), then your only “good” option is mobinil - they have a “data plan” which costs 20LE/month and gives you “unlimited access” (governed by a fair use policy - 110mb at 3g speeds, then unlimited at 56kbps). you can refill your quota at any time by paying another 20LE.
  1. if you have a post paid plan, there are sometimes certain offers and such that can end up being better for internet usage overall. one such plan exists for the iphone (on vodafone). while i am not certain of the details, it does appear to be quite expensive (at least according to this blog post). perhaps, however, a data plan at around 250mb exists at a cheaper monthly rate. i’ll update this if i find out anything more insha’Allah.
  1. if you don’t mind carrying another sim (and another cellphone), you can get a data only line for cheaper. these are typically sold with the usb modems. depending on your usage, 500mb can costs 43LE/mo with vodafone, 50LE/mo with mobinil, for example. if you need internet on the laptop, get a usb stick and plug the sim card in a second phone.

avoid prepaid/“pay as you go” for data

prepaid/“pay as you go” is great for voice calls. so why do i suggest staying away from the “pay as you go” models for internet? because the billing is not right. i ran some bandwidth monitors on my nexus one and compared the reported data usage to what i was billed for, and it didn’t line up. i called vodafone and got some money back once, but it’s not worth the hassle. a friend with the vodafone usb internet stick also pointed out that the reported usage he was seeing seemed unreasonably high.

how to disable the internet on your smart phone

  • on any android phone, APNdroid is your friend. you may also want to look at 3G Watchdog, another really good app that monitors your 3g usage (and allows you to set rules and automatically run APNdroid when over your set limit, etc).

  • on the iphone (or any other phone), changing your APN manually is the best bet (add some random characters before it so that it doesn’t resolve and thus doesn’t connect).