Yesterday, we got the opportunity to discuss a few things about Econet Broadband with Leon de Fleuriot, the Chief Commercial Officer – Broadband at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. We talked about the number of mobile broadband subscribers, eTXT, EconetMail and other things. We also discussed some issues Techzim readers suggested on our Facebook Page and Twitter.
We particularly found the mobile broadband usage stats quite interesting especially as they relate to Zimbabwe’s total Internet penetration and internet usage. Here are the figures:
- 1.7 million mobile broadband users
- 600,000 subscribers accessing internet services through eTXT
- There’s an overlap of users of about 200,000 between the two figures which means aggregate unique users of 2.1 million subscribers.
- Internet users growing by between 50,000 and 60,000 subscribers a month
- About 140,000 subscribers use EconetMail and the number is growing.
The number of mobile broadband users of course doesn’t tell the whole Zim story, what would be more interesting would be getting the numbers from the other operators as well (which we will try) and have a figure that closer to the true internet penetration in Zimbabwe. It’s clear though that Econet alone contributes about 17% internet penetration in Zimbabwe.
The EconetMail figure there is something that came as a surprise. We didn’t expect the concept of a mobile phone number as an email address to gain much traction but, according to de Fleuriot, it has. EconetMail usage is actually growing steadily even though Econet is not actively promoting it he says.
Some responses to reader questions:
The dominant question by far was “when will mobile broadband tariffs come down?” The response here is that subscribers should expect some price reductions in the new year as more equipment to support the growing mobile broadband subscriber base is installed.
Another popular question was one on BlackBerry services. “ask them if i should throw away my blackberry” one reader suggested. de Fleuriot’s response to this is that they cannot tell as the issue involves the telecoms regulator. He hinted though that BlackBerry services are not exactly on the rise globally and subscribers shouldn’t expect a game changing BlackBerry when it does launch. Now since most people think of BlackBerry services in the sense of cost convenience it represents in the South African market, he seemed to also suggest even if BlackBerry services launched, it’d be nothing like the R65 per month service the South Africans enjoy.
Mobile broadband speed
For some time now Econet broadband has been capped at 250kbps speed. One reader’s question was when Econet will unlock and provide faster speeds. de Fleuriot says the speed limit was actually increased to 2.5mbps starting September this year. Attaining that speed though still depends on location, density of subscribers in that cell and time of browsing (peak or off peak that is).
Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
MMS is coming early next year but de Fleuriot was quick to mention that it may not be the hit that it was for some markets outside Zimbabwe as MMS has mostly been superseded by mobile broadband services like WhatsApp.