Review: The Econet 3G mobile Wi-Fi device

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Econet Huawei E5332 device

You can read about the specs of the device itself, from the launch article we did on it last week.  Or the Huawei E5332 product page here.

First, our setting

First, our office is in the avenues, close to Harare’s city center, which can get quite congested during the day so we assume what we get is the minimum performance available on such a device. We are also in an area that has 3G so that’s what we got most of the time, but it did switch to 2G a few times. Say 3 or so times a day for about 15 minutes or so.

We also had a total of 5 devices connected at a time. 3 of those devices laptops doing light stuff like web browsing and posting stuff. Light not because we don’t love watching videos. This is metered bandwidth remember. 2 are smartphones that are basically passively connected; receiving WhatsApp messages, Facebook notifications, emails and such.


We also had the $10 antenna hooked to the device the whole time, so signal was never a problem. The device itself, by the way, actually takes a SIM card, so data rates are exactly the same as your regular dongle, or smartphone.


Huawei Antenna

The Antenna, which can be attached to the Mi-Fi device, for better reception

When we’re not using such tests units our primary connection is TelOne ADSL, which we let run out when we switched to the E5332. Our experience is that; fast as it might be, it’s stability doesn’t replace the ADSL wired connection. A number of times we found ourselves completely without internet for a few minutes (5 minutes say) and we found ourselves actually missing the ever  available ADSL.

See, when our ADSL goes down it’s usually something you can explain: either the telephone line is down (has never happened to us), or something upstream is now working (which happens when EASSy is down, or something between Mozambique and TelOne in Harare. And this usually affects all the operators so, still.

So our expectations were high, too high for a wireless based connection I guess. In short expect, about 95% availability.

For the geeks amoung you, an image like this on a continuous ping to is not uncommon during the day (click for the larger version):



We did speed tests using just before publishing this article. To local servers hosted at YoAfrica in Harare, the device did 2.29Mbps download speed and 0.33 Mbps upload speed. here:

Speedtest to local servers

As for international traffic speed, we did a test to London and we got 1.23Mbps download speed and 0.55 Mbps upload:

Speedtest to London

This is of course very fast. Fast enough you never wait for video to buffer whether it’s YouTube, Wabona, Vimeo or Hulu. Much faster than our ADSL silver connection which is throttled at 512Kbps. I should mention here that we haven’t sampled the ADSL platinum package, which theoretically delivers data at 2Mbps.

In summary, the good;

  • Very fast internet
  • If you have a number of users at home or at an office, this may actually be a solution that’s much cheaper than other wireless options. Cheaper in terms of data because to buy a 2.5 GB you pay $50 and get very fast internet. Actually even for the lone user, having Wi-Fi for both your laptop and phone is a great setup, especially as you can also move around with it?
  • At $90, the device itself is also cheaper than your typical home connection WiMax device, which left us wondering why anyone would still need WiMax. Maybe just reachable customer support numbers? But that’s another discussion.
  • The device also doesn’t need to be connection to a power source, so if ZESA bails on you, there’s no interruption if, hopefully, your laptop/phone is charged too. The device doesn’t actually need a laptop, you can hang it by the window for better reception and it’ll still deliver great Wi-Fi for about 4 or so hours if the battery is fully charged.

and the bad;

  • It doesn’t replace a wired connection in terms of stability so better go ahead and still get that ADSL connection for when you’re home, or a fibre connection for those that can afford it. 
  • The data is only cheaper than other options (Africom, Telecel, NetOne, uMax, Aptics, YoAfrica) if you’re buying the largest 2.5GB bundle, otherwise it’s not so cheap.
  • It’s actually ridiculously priced if you’re not buying bundles; Out of bundle price per MB is still 15 cents. daylight stuff!
  • No matter how much faster it is it doesn’t beat TelOne and PowerTel ($50 all you can eat) on price per MB.

Econet Huawei E5332 back


  1. Garikai Dzoma says:

    I will stay with Powertel and its downtime thank you.

    1. Alu Moyo says:

      Same here – coz nobody else is gonna let me download like this for 50 Bucks:

      1. Time says:

        May I ask which area you live that you are able to download so much??

        1. Alu Moyo says:

          Suburbs – Bulawayo.

          1. Time says:

            Oh ok…guess your still far from the over subscribing being experienced in Harare! You’ll be surprised how many areas are all serviced by one measly base station!

  2. Kudzi M. says:

    Thanks Limbikani for the review. Well despite the negatives, this device is really cool. The portability and the price are actually what we lead me to buy. Africom has a similar one but it’s about $270 bucks for the device.

  3. bhinikwa says:

    Nothing beats Adsl guys but thanks Admin for the review. When training in rural areas l guess its worthwhile. Though l feel the price should come down. Econet is still pricing lke we are in Z$ era. Just look how the dongle started at $90 & now its a low $35. How do they justify the difference. I dont trust Econet pricing. Its monopolistic

  4. Time says:

    “…so if ZESA bails on you, there’s no interruption..”

    Haha you should use Econet internet in the suburbs! As soon as Zesa goes connection drops to Edge and its barely usable…kinda like powertel but actually worse! So yes there is indeed interuption when zesa bails so I guess this little wifi thing may be suited for a bachelor living in the city centre where powercuts are rare and 2.5gb may just last you long enough as you’ll be living alone.

    Lets just hope someone at Econet actually reads these comments and takes the hint that with lower data prices..say $50 for 5gig throttled to 1mbps they will recapture that market and regain most of those that went of to powetel, africom etc… I only stay on powertel not because Im a heavy internet user, but simplty for the peace of mind that my megabytes wont run out in the middle of an important skype call.

  5. Farai Sairai says:

    Thank you for the review. But I think this will suit/work for the average roaming /roving user/engineer when going onsite to clients than a typical home user.

  6. macdchip says:

    Reap-off Zimbabwe!! The greedy culture continues.

  7. Future says:

    Econet inspired to rip your world.

  8. JamesM says:

    For the enterprising hardware vendors out there you can place volume sales on and undercut the greedy econet right under their nose. There are now so many portable GSM (Econet & Telecel) and CDMA (Powertel & Africom) routers that one is really spoilt for choice. Know of a friend who goes to Msanzi often have them bring one for you.

  9. Georges says:

    Tres bien

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