how common is metering of internet bandwidth in poorer countries? And in places where it is happening, do websites switch to the text heavy “mobile web” type design to save their users money?
I was just in Sudan and they have good net in Khartoum and in the countryside have mDSL (net via the mobile phone network, with a USB device). It is a flat rate (about $50/mo) for unlimited bandwidth. It worked well everywhere. Often there was no electricity and I accessed the net from the 4x4 out among the sand dunes.
I imagine it depends on the system. I don’t recall any evidence of metering in Cameroon. But it was all satellite internet where I was, so it seems like there must have been some metering going on somewhere.
Slow connection speeds act as their own metering. I certainly learned how to use Gmail’s “Plain HTML” option and went out of my way to avoid high-bandwidth sites just to save my own aggravation.
In Haiti many use the same satellite internet service we have in the US, and that does have a limit on bandwidth, something like 5gb/m and if you go over it they drop you down to IIRC 14.4kb/s
Lived in Uganda: no limit or metering, though speed was very slow (it was much better in Kenya and Rwanda, but consistently bad throughout Uganda), and service could be somewhat unreliable. And for this, I paid more than standard residential rates in the US.
In South Africa, most broadband internet is metered. The two most common broadband types here are DSL (up to 4 Mbit) and HSDPA (up to 3.6 Mbit, on the GSM network). Both of those are normally metered (“capped”). The “standard” DSL package includes a 3GB/mo. cap, which can be “topped up” by the user if they go over. It is possible to get uncapped plans, obviously at a much higher cost.
I’ve not seen South African websites defaulting to WAP-style because of this, but I would say that SA websites to tend to be less video- and Flash-heavy than those in Europe or America.
By way of comparison, my 4Mbit DSL costs ZAR 275 (~USD 35) per month for the line, a further ZAR 220 (~USD 30) for the first 5 GB per month, and ZAR 65 (~USD 9) per GB after that.