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Internet access and providers in Tunisia
Public access

In all towns and bigger villages, there are so-called "Publinet"s. Publinet internet access is funded by the state, limited to slower speed (256 kbit/s) and must use a proxy, which blocks all ports except those for IRC- and HTTP protocol, in additon, rumours have it (and there is strong evidence supporting it), that suspicious activities of customers must be reported to the authorities. The hourly fees in a Publinet is 1.5 - 3 Dinar. Due to the limited speed, a Publinet is not really suited for internet telephony or applications which require amounts of bandwidth.

Apart from the "offcial" publinets, there are, especially in tourist regions and bigger towns, as well numerous private Internet cafe's, some even offering WLAN connections; all these access points are private access points of this hotel or internet cafe. As such, they are not speed limited (mostly, they have lines around 1 MBit) required to use the above mentioned proxy server and are therefore similar to access points in western countries. The price for that has to be paid literally - for one hour, the fees will be around 6, but can easily reach even 12 Dinars. These access points are suited in most cases for internet telephony and videophonie and for direct FTP, POP, Telnet and Filesharing access/useage.

Private access

Currently, there are 5 DSL providers in Tunisia. All of them use the same network (TunisieTelecom), offer identical specifications and services, so that in the end, only the price makes a difference..

Fee per month, in Dinar (TD) 512 kbit/s* 1024 kbit/s* 2048 kbit/s* 4096 kbit/s* 8192 kbit/s*
  since 2006 2006 2008 2009 2009
3S Global Net 15 / 13** 24 / 20** 32 / 27** 50 / 42** -?-
Hexabyte 10 / 6** 10 / 8** 15 / 13** 20 / 17** 25 / 21**
Planet Tunisie 10 18 30 50 -?-
Topnet --- 15 / 13** 20 / 17** 25 / 21** 30
Tunet (Telecom) 8** 11** 17** 21**  -?-
Payment is due monthly
directly to TunisieTelecom!
15 20 30 50 50

* = In the table is the downstream speed listed, upstream is usually 1/2 of that, all offers are flatrate offers with unlimited traffic allowance.
** = Only when the fee is prepaid for one year

Apart from the above listed "normal tarifs", all providers offer special plans, eg. access only at night, at night with higher speed or access during school holidays. Sometimes you can find promotion offers as well.

In addition to DSL access, there is still an internet access with an analog modem possible (ca. 35 kbit/s), for this, only a telephone line and a prepaid  internet card of one of the above providers is needed. 1 hour of analog access costs ca. 1 Dinar, there are cards for multiple hours available.

All DSL access is using the standard of ADSL2 with PPPoA; in this regard, not all modems that are used in Europe can be used, but dsl modems are available with each tunisian provider for acceptable prices.

The pre-condition to use a DSL access is an existing telephone line of TunisieTelecom, which must be woned by the same person. It does not matter whether this line is a postpaid or prepaid line, just that the line is existing and avctive. At the office of the TuniseTelecom, a customer will get a form, with which you can order a dsl line with the dsl providers. It takes then usually 1-2 weeks until the line is working.

DSL lines are, at least in the population rich areas, almost everywhere available - a customer should, though, ask explicitly ask  the dsl provider first, whether a dsl line can be offerd for a specific address and telephone number. Even when the reply is positive, one should  leave the option open (in writing) to skip the contract and get a full payment refund, when the line is not working at the agreed date!

Internet acess by mobile phone

In the coastal regions and the bigger towns, the mobile phone provider Tunisiana offers for his prepaid customers internet access via GPRS/EDGE. This access costs for 30 days 39 Dinars (max 3 GB transfer volume). The transfer speed for this access is ca.12-25 kbytes, which is similar to a DSL line of 128-256 kbit. This offer is, though, interesting because with an "Awal" prepaid card from Tunisian, you get a 50% refund for all useage of more than 25 Dinar/month, so effectively, with such a card, the access costs only 20 Dinar/month and is even cheaper than a DSL line, not to speak about the mobility. Downfall of this solution is the system immanent high latency, so the access is not suited for eg. online shooter games, in addition, Tunisian does not offer own SMTP/POP servers and even blocks the SMTP port in general (all other ports are open, though). However, if one can live with this limitations or has a workaround, then he will receive an acceptable mobile internet access for a fair price..

Furthermore, Tunisiana and Tuntel both offer plans for postpaid (contract) customers as well. But since postpaid contracts are reserved for official business customers, I do not mention these options in more detail here (the price is, though,similar).

The internet infrastructure in Tunisia is literally a backbone (and not a redudant circle), in addition, all traffic in and out of the country is run through one access point in Tunis. As a result, in case of any technical problems (even when there is just heavy rain), one can expect a wide spread slowdown or unaccessability. But even worse is the high load of the network in peak times (which happens to be the whole day and night), which is causing slow speed especially between 10:00-01:00, or, in other words, only in the early morning you can expect to reach the maximum possible line speed at all.
Tunisia has a sophisticated internet censorship, which is realized by the pipelining the whole internet traffic through a central in Tunis , which can filter at DNS and IP level. Especially websites with "nude pictures" (even some European newspapers), websites of human rights activists/organisations and the political opposition can not be accessed from Tunisia. Blocked as well is currently the complete access to YouTube (most probably because of the videos of the uproars in the southern mining regions).

For an internet useage in the same way that one is used to in western countries,
an tunisian internet access is, for multiple reasons, not really suited.

The above mentioned prices are for private lines. Business lines, which happen to have the same specifications, cost about 50% more. Some offer even website hosting, but since the servers for this hosting are located in Tunisia, their value for international offers/accesses is quite limited - mainly due to the slow connection to the international backbones, there are many network centers in Europe and USA with a bigger bandwidth available than there there is for the whole of Tunisia, not even to speak about the traffic concentration/filtering.
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