Smile launched their 4G LTE service in Kaduna a few weeks ago, and as I promised while breaking the news of their impending launch, I went to their office to pick one up and give it a spin to see how it compares with everywhere else, both in terms of speed, and in terms of billing; an issue which caused an uproar the last time I brought it up. Finding the office was not without issue-there is currently no signage in front of the office, so I drove past it initially, but just in case you’re reading this from Kaduna, the office is at Gora Place, same building as the UBA bank opposite DICON on Ali Akilu road.
I had initially planned to buy just the sim for use on one of my devices (a BlackBerry Z30) instead of investing in hardware that I may not use long-term, but discovered on getting there that my device didn’t support the band they used (800mhz). They also didn’t have nano-sims I could try on my other LTE devices so I took the plunge and got the MiFi device for N12,500, which comes bundled with 5GB. (Your other options are a stand-alone sim for N2,300 bundled with 2GB data if you have a compatible device and a router for 23,000 bundled with 20GB of data). The registration process was straight forward, and the staff were eager to help and do a run through of all the settings you need to know before letting you leave their office.
Data Usage Billing:
It’s no secret that I Smile’s billing system is skewed, so you can imagine my trepidation, when I noticed that in the space of 5 minutes or so it took to set up the device, 100MB of data had already been used! At this point, I still had not connected any of my own devices to the MiFi. There is a chance that data was used up while setting up the device, but 100MB feels a bit steep, especially since one would think that the operator’s site would be toll free for subscribers.
Asides from the mystery of the 100MB, billing has been what I would consider fair so far, but because I have been on the move a lot for the past few days, I have just used the data in small sips and turned off the MiFi while not in use. There is a chance I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase, considering that I am still using the data that came bundled with the modem, with time, I will update this post to reflect if I find the billing off, for now however, it seems within the limits within which I am comfortable with allowing Smile the benefit of doubt.
Smile’s 4G LTE is fast…in Kaduna.
It is currently the fasted connection I have used here, and I doubt you will find many faster (including the connections offered by private ISPs) in this part of the country. Smile advertises a speed of “up to” 21Mbps (note the emphasis) and in my tests, while I have achieved the advertised speed, it is not exactly constant. Like with most connections, speed dips during peak work periods and the best speeds usually achievable in the mornings and evenings. In my tests (using Ookla’s speedtest.net), I’m yet to see speeds under 7Mbps even during peak periods, which is more than decent in this part of the world.
Pages load quickly, videos and songs play mostly without buffering and the whole internet experience is greatly enhanced by the speed.
Like mentioned above, I got the portable MiFi device and it’s a straightforward, black box affair. The top is textured and features the smile branding and a small ink display from which you view all your details. The box has a metal chassis that runs round. On one side of the chassis, you’ll find the micro-USB port for charging and there’s a sim slot on an adjacent side.
It feels well built, but I’m not going to drop it to find out how well, the battery life has been sufficient so far; actually, much better than my regular 3G MiFi, though like I mentioned earlier, my usage has been anything but heavy. Most importantly, it doesn’t heat up as much as most of the other MiFi’s I’ve tried, making the device more comfortable to carry in your pocket than most.
While I technically haven’t gotten a plan yet (since I am still using the bundled data), I took a quick glance at the data plans available. I still consider N1000/GB to be fair, but in 2016 it’s closer to the outer limit of what fair should be (in my head). All the Smile plans above 5GB are all billed at less than N1000/GB, so that puts them in the fair range by my logic. That said, you can buy data for a lot cheaper.
It’s still early days though, I will be keeping an eye on the service as it continues to add customers and grow and I will report changes in the quality as it happens, but as of this moment, I’m more than satisfied with Smile’s service. Speed is great, coverage is decent and the device doesn’t feel like I’m cooking indomie noodles in my pocket.
If price isn’t an issue, getting this over anything else (at the moment of writing this), is a no brainer.