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How I Fixed No Internet on a Safaricom Wi-Fi Hotspot

Rarely do I use Safaricom for internet, but somehow I recently came by one of their generous data bundle offers. Naturally, I decided to make use of it on my desktop to get some work done.

Usually I just tether my phone to my desktop’s Wi-Fi adapter rather than using my trusty unlocked Safaricom modem. It is much faster, not to mention I don’t have to fret about missing any calls (though it is possible to answer them using the modem, albeit cumbersomely).

Unfortunately, this particular Wi-Fi hotspot became quite problematic, unlike what I’m used to when using Telkom or Airtel Kenya bundles. The problem: the computer successfully connects to the Wi-Fi hotspot but reports it has no Internet.

Troubleshooting Safaricom Hotspot

A screenshot of Windows 10 network panel showing a connected Wi-Fi network with no internet.
Connected but to no internet

Thinking something might be wrong with the hotspot, I tried both USB and Bluetooth tethering, both of which resulted with the same error.

Next I tried running Windows Network Diagnostics which reported the following:

Your computer appears to be correctly configured but the device or resource (DNS server) is not responding.

Thinking I had found the problem, I tried changing the DNS servers for the hotspot on my computer including to those of Google DNS, Open DNS and CloudFlare DNS none of which worked. I even went as far as changing the DNS server on my rooted Android phone, which of course failed spectacularly.

Meanwhile, I could still use the data bundle normally on my phone. A hotspot made with my Telkom line on the second SIM slot however worked perfectly regardless of which DNS server I used.

At this point I started suspecting foul play by Safaricom, after all, some network operators are known to block tethering for end users. Nevertheless, I could not find evidence of this.

So after trying different public DNS servers with no actual change I decided to search for alternative DNS servers from Safaricom.

Safaricom DNS Servers

The first place I landed was on a forum discussing Your Freedom VPN. While completely unrelated to this, somewhere in that thread someone suggested to use a different DNS server: 196.216.201.21.

All this time, my Safaricom internet connection had been using the DNS Server: 196.201.217.7. So I changed it to 196.216.201.21 and what do you know, the hotspot started working.

Now, I’m not implying that this specific DNS Server will always solve this error for you. Safaricom uses different DNS servers and this happens to be just one of them.

Nevertheless, one thing is clear form this: should you encounter such an issue the first place you should go looking is in your DNS server settings. Try different public DNS and should those fail too, try different Safaricom DNS servers.

Now I should mention a few moments later after making the change the new DNS server started acting up as well — it would lose internet intermittently then recover on its own.

I suppose it wouldn’t be farfetched to just conclude Safaricom has unreliable DNS servers, which is rather amusing as I’ve never before experienced this kind of issue with their “unreliable” competitors.

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Kelvin Kathia

Kelvin Kathia is a writer based in Kenya that's passionate about sharing solutions to everyday tech problems. He's the founder and editor of Journey Bytes, a tech blog and web design agency. Feel free to leave him comments or questions regarding this post, or by leaving him a message on the contact page. If you found his content helpful, a donation is much appreciated.