So I have been using Liquid Telcom home unlimited internet for over 3 months now. I was lucky enough to get myself a connection at my home before the Covid-19 lockdown. I have been using their Bronze 10Mbps (now eliminated) internet as my primary link for work and play.
Liquid Telecom entered the Ugandan market after acquiring Infocom which was another fixed-line internet provider catering to small office and enterprise clients. They recently launched into the retail sector without much marketing and advertising but rather through word-of-mouth. I actually got to know that they had home internet all along when I inquired from one of the support engineers who was working on our office internet.
When Covid-19 unleashed its fury constraining all of us to our homes and working remotely, internet wasn’t a luxury. A lot of people went into desperation searching for reliable fast internet for their needs. Word quickly spread that Liquid Telecom was one of the best options on the market. But is it? Lets find out.
I’ll be awarding the ISP scores out of 5 on setup and installation, internet packages, performance, coverage and customer care. I’ll then average these scores in the end with a final mark. Note that these scores are purely out of my personal experience using the service for over 3 months.
Set up and installation
Liquid Telecom is not a mobile telcom. Therefore you don’t need a specific simcard to connect to say 3/4G LTE network. Instead they use Microwave radio link to bring internet to your home. This involves an antenna or rather small dish that connects to one of their masts. Note that it requires direct Line-of-sight which means there shouldn’t be any obstacles such as trees or tall buildings between the antenna and their masts.
On top of the small antenna usually mounted either on the rooftop, water tank or walls of the house, you also need a WiFi router. The router — TP-Link actually — is what wirelessly links your devices to the internet. The whole setup is quite similar to what you would get from DStv dish/decoder combo installation setup.
At the time of my connection, the setup and installation costs both the equipment and labor was free. However, this now costs about Ugx 120,000 one-time fee. That’s still way cheaper than what’s being offered on the market.
Liquid Telcom Internet Packages
At the time of my connection, Liquid has 4 unlimited packages. All the packages are true unlimited internet meaning you consume all you want without annoying Fair Usage Polices(FUP) we have become accustomed to from other providers. They are billed monthly and are prepaid. At the time of my connection, Liquid had the Bronze 10Mbps at Ugx 119,000 but was recently unceremoniously scrapped off forcing all of us to upgrade to the Silver 20Mbps package. Below are the rest of the packages;
- Silver 20Mbps at Ugx 169,000/month
- Gold 40Mbps at Ugx 269,000/month
- Platinum 100Mbps at Ugx 469,000/month
Now, you should know that those speeds have nothing to do with what you actually get. It’s just purely marketing. Liquid claims that they can’t guarantee speeds since the connection is shared. So It you subscribe to 20Mbps plan, don’t expect anything close to that. More on that later.
Payment can be done through Mobile money. All you have to do is dial *290*1# and pay either using MTN Mobile Money or Airtel Money. Reconnect ion is not automatic though. You have to restart the router each time you renew your bundle.
Now to be honest, with these rates even though some might find them out costly are the best in the market. Liquid will give you the cheapest rate per GB compared to everyone else on the market.
So this is where it gets interesting. One thing for sure I love about Liquid Telecom is their commitment to True Unlimited internet. Consume all you want, pay flat monthly fee, period. However, this unfortunately comes at a cost. Liquid will not guarantee internet speeds anywhere close to the plan you subscribed to. In their defense, they claim that the link is shared which is of course not an excuse for unbearable internet speeds.
I am currently subscribed to the 20Mbps Silver plan after forcefully being upgraded from 10Mbps Silver plan. My speeds drop to as low as 20Kbps and max at around 5-7Mbps on a good day. Most times though, I am somewhere below 1Mbps which is a far cry from the advertised “20Mbps”.
But how do these speeds translate in actual browsing experience. Well, I have TCL Smart TV which is constantly hooked to the internet, 2 laptops and about 3 smartphones from family members connected at any time. That’s at least 6 devices constantly connected to the WiFi. If you are casually browsing, the experience is okay. If you are watching Youtube and Netflixing, the experience is mostly okay for the most part. Other streaming services I use such as Apple TV+, Curiosity stream, Plex that aren’t optimized for slow connections don’t stand a chance. Taking online video calls, zoom, meet, Microsoft teams won’t work most of the times unless you turn on audio-only.
If you are looking for more consistent performance, then you want to try Liquid’s dedicated plans. They have a dedicated 5Mbps plan for Ugx 200,000/month which I intend to upgrade to next month.
When you are scouting for an internet provider, coverage is an important aspect. Liquid Home internet doesn’t have the widest coverage. They are not available country-wide. They are mostly in Kampala metropolitan area. Inside within Kampala, there are a lot blind spots that aren’t yet covered. So it’s best you contact them to find out if your area is covered.
Customer care is very important for anyone in the service industry. When your internet is off or you can’t renew your internet, you want to be able to reach someone for help. Unfortunately this is the worst part about Liquid. For whatever reason, they won’t answer their calls or reply tweets according to my 3-months experience. They’ll respond to your emails though. So maybe Liquid should tell us that’s their preferred customer support channel.
Liquid takes home an average score of just 2.8/5.
When it comes to choosing an internet provider in Uganda, there’s no perfect solution. There are a lot of trade offs to be made and it’s up to you to choose what you can’t compromise on. For me, bundled, caped internet or what I call the “MB Economy” is history. I would rather have slow internet which is unlimited. And that’s why I chose Liquid. But if speed is your top priority and you can’t stand poor customer care, then you probably want to look else where. Usually, but not always, this is where mobile telecoms shine at the expense of sizable data volumes.