Tanzania has become the first country in east Africa to lower internet charges following the arrival of broadband internet in the region, The East African newspaper reports.

Tanzania Telecommunication Company Ltd has reduced tariffs for commercial customers by up to 50 per cent after linking up with the international SEACOM fibre optic cable running along the seabed from South Africa to Egypt, which went live in July this year.

Small and medium-sized businesses stand to benefit most with a 50 per cent reduction in the cost of bandwidth. Under the new tariff structure they now get 10GB for Tsh200,000 rather than 5 GB as before.

Banks, large businesses, government agencies and other institutions have instead seen their charges fall by around a third.

Meanwhile private customers are now offered unlimited internet use for Tsh45,000 a month with a speed of up to 256Kbps.

As of March 2008 Tanzania had 400,000 internet users out of a total population of around 40 million, according to the international telecommunication union. This compares with 200,000 in Mozambique (total population around 20 million) and three million in Kenya (total population around 38 million).

SEACOM is one of two submarine cable projects linking Tanzania to the international broadband network. The other is the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) running from Sudan to South Africa. EASSy is a joint project of several African and international telecoms operators and is expected to go into service mid-2010.