For our mobile broadband needs at Techzim, we currently use Telecel, Africom and Econet. We use them it that order – a price order. Telecel is the cheapest. Well, free actually at the moment. If the Telecel line starts acting up, I plug in the Africom dongle which costs US $18 for the first Gigabyte, and 11 US cents per megabyte thereafter. If there’s no joy with both Telecel & Africom I fall on the connection of last resort, Econet broadband, which costs US $98 for a Gigabyte of data.
That’s how expensive a commodity internet bandwidth is in Zimbabwe.
With this in mind, we imagine a lot of people would like to save the little bandwidth they can afford. We also imagine there are thousands of people out there who find their bundles mysteriously used up even when they “haven’t used the net THAT much”.
We list below, a few bandwidth saving tips. We know some readers have even more tips. If you’re such a reader, please add in your tips in the comments. We’re going to assume you use a Windows machine here because that’s what most people use, and also because if you’re on a Linux box, chances are you‘re a savvy enough and don’t need us lecturing you on this.
- Where it’s practical, use a mobile phone. Mobile phones don’t have as huge an appetitive for downloading stuff as computers and laptops do. PCs love getting stuff from the internet. Whenever they sense a live connection, they try to make the most out of it, most times without notifying you what they’re up to until whole files have been downloaded. Mobile versions of websites also usually have a smaller megabyte footprint.
- A notorious bandwidth hog but ironically the most useful utility on your machine is the Windows Automatic Updates tool. Automatic Updates doesn’t know your bandwidth is expensive. It’s always actively looking for security updates to download and patch your system. Turn it off, but don’t forget to manually get the updates through some other means. An IT guy you know maybe. Once you turn it off, Automatic Updates will not stop warning you that you’re at high risk. Ignore it. But again, make sure you get those updates through some other means.
- Stay free of malicious software (viruses, spyware, worms, adware etc…). Get a tech savvy someone to help you get clean if you suspect you’re not. Get rid of those waterfall wallpapers you downloaded from the net. If they won’t come off, get a geek to help out.
- Make sure you know how your Antivirus software get’s updated. Most anti-virus software automatically download updates from the Internet so they can keep you protected. Disable this if possible and again, make sure you get updated. Be nice to you your IT guy at work and ask him to give you the updates on a flash drive.
- Uninstall all software you don’t use. For example, while writing this, I just checked my PC and noticed I don’t really use Google Desktop Search anymore. I don’t have any use for it right now so I’m uninstalling. I’ll install it again when the need arises.
- Know that a lot of software assume you are connected and you’re OK with them automatically downloading software updates from the internet without notifying you. Check the settings of your programs to ensure this is not happening. Internet browsers, media players like iTunes, background software like Java, utilities like Adobe Reader, and many other such do this.
- If you can, get yourself a bandwidth monitor. Just make sure it’s not laced with spyware & adware. Getting it from an IT guy you know is best. I don’t use a bandwidth monitor myself but I’m sure there are a hundred good ones out there.
- Torrent and peer to peer based software consume loads of bandwidth. If you need to save bandwidth, just don’t use them. Luckily, your PC most likely came with none, but if some teenagers in the house have used it, you might want to check for such applications and remove them.
- Spend as little time as possible of video and picture sites like YouTube, Flickr and Facebook. Also, where it’s practical choose to use lower resolution videos and pictures; the higher the resolution (or definition) the bigger the megabyte footprint.
- Have just a little understanding of what the terms megabyte, and gigabyte mean. Also have some basic understanding of how much bandwidth different types of internet content consume. Here’s a short guide:
|Content Type||Size in Megabytes|
|Short video clip||20|
|VCD Quality Movie||700|
|High definition movie||4000|
A final quick tip for those of you who don’t mind using the Windows command prompt: to quickly check which applications are using your internet at any time, just go to the windows command prompt utility (Start à All Programs à Accessories à Command Prompt) and type “netstat -b”. It will list all programs connected to the internet.
Like we said at the beginning of the article, if you have a tip we didn’t include here, just share it in the comments below.