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.
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 yahoo.com is not uncommon during the day (click for the larger version):
We did speed tests using Speedtest.net 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:
As for international traffic speed, we did a test to London and we got 1.23Mbps download speed and 0.55 Mbps upload:
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.