As we tried to get our mobile phones to work in Benin, we learned a number of things:
- New SIM cards need to be activated, by presenting an identification document (e.g. passport) at the office of the provider
- APN settings are tricky
- SMS message center settings pushed by the carrier may not work on all phones
- no 3G coverage in Benin, although MTN won a 3G/4G license in March 2012, so that may change soon.
- According to a local with a smart phone, Moov is much better than MTN for data. Unfortunately we learned this after buying a 10000 CFA MTN recharge card, so we have stuck with MTN and have not confirmed this ourselves.
- 2G data roaming from Bell Canada didn’t work (but did work in Ghana and Togo, at least along the coast), voice roaming worked fine (albeit expensive) and SMS roaming is intermittent.
We activated SIM cards on both MTN and Moov. In hopes of saving someone else the aggravation of figuring this out, here’s how we did it.
MTN requires you to bring a photocopy and present it outside their main office in Cotonou on Boulevard Steinmetz north of Avenue Clozel. Make a photocopy of your passport before you go to the office. There are photocopy shops just down the side road by the MTN building – I made a copy for 25 CFA with some local help. Write your new mobile number on the photocopy and present it at the table under the shelter outside. They asked for occupation and added it to a pile of other papers – no idea when the activation will occur.
To make Internet work, we used the following APN settings on a Samsung Galaxy S i896 (under Settings -> Wireless and Networks -> Mobile -> APN):
- APN: internet.mtn.bj
- Proxy IP: 10.10.4.3
- Proxy port: 8080
- APN Type: Internet + MMS
- to check your balance dial *124#
- to recharge, dial *125*XXXXXXXXXXX# where XXXXXXXXX is the voucher number in the scratch off section of the recharge card
- Recharge cards are available at many streetside stalls in denominations from 500 cfa to 10000 cfa
- the only way to recharge a prepaid sim in an iPad is to remove it, put it in a SIM carrier, and use an unlocked phone, with the standard *125*XXXXXXXXXXX# code
- according to the very frustrated Chinese lady at MTN with us yesterday, data is very slow, especially connecting overseas trying to use YouTube and Skype. We tried to explain that this was Africa, and not too surprising. In hindsight we should have suggested trying to find wifi, it might be better. Also, data coverage is limited outside the major cities, and sometimes even inside. It has been slow but not unusable in our experience, but Wifi is slow too. Hopefully the new fiber just laid from Europe to Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa will help when it’s lit up.
- If sending an SMS the first time doesn’t, work, try again, the network may be overloadeded.
- Data is 200 CFA per MB, or 2500 CFA for 50 MB by dialing *130*3#. Other amounts are available.
The Moov office is a bit further up Boulevard Steinmetz from MTN. The person doing activations was just inside the door, and the queues for everything were much shorter than at MTN. Once I reached the front of the queue, he did our activation immediately, but that may have been because our SIM had already been disabled. He was also able to correctly configure the Galaxy S APN settings with little difficulty.
- To make Internet work, we used the following APN settings on a Samsung Galaxy S i896 (under Settings -> Wireless and Networks -> Mobile -> APN):
- APN: moov
- Proxy IP: none
- Proxy port: none
- User name: moov
- Password: moov
- APN Type: Internet + MMS
- to check your balance dial #100#
- To add funds, dial *101* followed by the 12 digits of your recharge code, # and then dial
- Recharge cards are available at many street corner booths as well as mobile sellers
- Text and voice calling between moov phones is much cheaper than moov to mtn. (e.g. 25 cfa per text vs. 50 cfa)
- On my basic Nokia phone, I had to rename the message sending profile from ‘moov’ to ‘Profile 1’ before it would send SMS successfully. This is under Menu – Messages – Message Settings – Sending profile – Moov – Rename sending profile. The message centre number is +22995950999. See the Nokia discussion board for more details. OneSIMcard has instructions on how to reset the SMSC for many other phones.
In Ghana, people carry multiple mobile phones, because it is cheaper to call and text people on the same network. With multiple networks, people carry phones that either take multiple SIMs or they carry multiple phones. We suspect the same is true here in Benin, but haven’t validated that yet. This may explain why some African countries have higher mobile penetration rates than Canada, including a few with more mobile subscribers than inhabitants