Zimbabwe UNWTO 2013: Econet to launch 4G LTE services in Victoria Falls

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Econet logoEconet Chief Marketing Office, Isaiah Nyangari, announced last week that Econet will be rolling out LTE services in Zimbabwe’s tourist town of Victoria Falls, where this year’s United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly will be held next month. The announcement was made at the official handover of a Communications Centre to the Ministry of Tourism by the company in Harare. The centre will be used for the UNWTO conference.

According to Nyangari, LTE (short for Long Term Evolution) services will go live in the town in time for the conference in order to provide visiting delegates world class internet connectivity during their stay in Zimbabwe. LTE in Victoria Falls has clearly been spurred by the UNWTO conference itself, as well as the fact that Victoria Falls is tourist destination and therefore reasonable to assume need to support LTE roaming customers. Victoria Falls will be the first location in the country to go live with commercial LTE if this pans out.

Econet has been rumoured to be working on an LTE deployment in recent years. It’s their efforts to prepare for a future of faster internet speed which will in turn result in more consumption of data services and therefore increased revenues. Econet already has the largest 3G network in the country spanning all the cities and major towns including Victoria Falls. Even though Telecel and NetOne have not indicated that they are looking to roll out LTE services in the future, it’s reasonable to assume they have plans to trial LTE (or are already) in the coming several months.

LTE is one of the latest standards in mobile network technology providing higher speed internet (theoretical download speed of up to 300 Mbit/s) than the ‘current’ 3G. LTE is an advancement based on the same technologies that Econet, NetOne and Telecel use on their networks (GSM/UMTS). To upgrade to LTE, the mobile operators need to install some LTE specific core components. It’s important to note here that even after an LTE network has been deployed, just like 3G, the mobile phone user has to have a phone of dongle that supports LTE. Most modern smartphones come with LTE support but definitely not all.

Even though we refer here to 3G as current, the reality on the ground for mobile users in Zimbabwe is hardly a smooth 3G experience. Users on all 3 mobile networks are bounced between GPRS, EDGE and 3G depending on the location. GPRS and EDGE are actually the most prevalent.

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Mobile networks in a number of countries on the continent have launched LTE in recent years including South Africa, Angola, Mauritius, Tanzania, Uganda and Namibia. Zimbabwe joins the list of these first countries to deploy LTE.

30 Comments

  1. Fourwallsinaroom says:

    Can someone please shed some light on what bands they will be using given that the following bands are all LTE. Network bands for LTE 700, 700-13, 700-17, 800, 850, 900, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100 and 2600

    1. haiwawo says:

      ever heard of techzimanswers? or are you jus ‘showing off’ (your knowledge on the subject)?

      1. Fourwallsinaroom says:

        The question was relevant to the topic and because this article will probably be read by Econet staff. That said a simple check on GSM arena will give u the same list so no i am not showing of i just know how to use google…

    2. LTEer says:

      Using 1800Mhz.

    3. ic0n1c says:

      1800Mhz to be deployed for most urban centers, and is the most popularly deployed band in other countries… makes it easier for roaming.

      I also expect 850MHz for the rural areas for wider reach.

      1. fourwallsinaroom says:

        thanks for the reply 🙂

  2. Zig Ziglar says:

    I think this UNTWO has given us an advantage as you may note that in SA, they do not yet have LTE… Besides we may see Telecel, NetOne stumbling to offer the same service, which is really good for us! Coincidentally I wrote a blog post on the same issue this morning here:

    http://zimsmartphones.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/vic-falls-declared-cyber-city-get-lte-very-fast-internet-access/

    1. gweja says:

      Correction there boet. There is LTE is SA. Vodacom, CellC, Telkom Mobile, MTN, they all have it.

      1. Zig Ziglar says:

        As a marketing gimmick yes its there. If you are on Vodacom and buy an LTE device, they advice you to switch off LTE to stop showing the ‘no service’ message. Just like Zimbabwe, 3G is used mainly as a marketing gimmick as our speeds are 2G

        1. Braddock Nhari says:

          Zig Ziglar, your phone(s) are broken. i always achieve over a megabyte (not megabit) per second over any of the three local networks and as for SA. I’ve stayed there, the LTE service is available comprehensively, and its FAST!!!

          1. Zig Ziglar says:

            Oh…. I didnt know my phone was broken will get it to the repair shop asap!!! Okay jokes aside, Our speeds are on the lower ends of the 3G spectrum… though.

            1. Braddock Nhari says:

              that i will without a doubt agree with. our 3G service is spotty mostly restricted to towns, highway and rural are left out, it comparatively slower than world standards, as for me i set my phone to always on 3G

              1. Zig Ziglar says:

                Thanks for supporting me, I was getting squashed in this debate…. now its two people for our side….

    2. Ndini Wenyu says:

      LTE is available in SA, albeit limited in coverage and supported devices.

      1. Zig Ziglar says:

        Maybe if you say so, last time I checked they advice to off LTE when you cant get a signal… a sign its not there

        1. Fourwallsinaroom says:

          http://www.vodacom.com/personal/main/coveragemaps select the LTE check box.

        2. kwana says:

          ‘checked’ kupi? wakapiwa advice yakadhakwa. those guys vanotengesa ma phones ku MTN/Vodacom/CellC shops ma sales person, not engineers. usango bvuma zvese zvese iwe.

  3. Time says:

    Ahh so this is what it feels like to have an internet service launched in another city before yours…certainly a weird feeling for us H-town folk.

    Also keen to see the pricing of this LTE, if they go by their traditional Econet ways, then Im sure very few indeed will enjoy browsing at such speeds. And also wonder how they are going to provide the connectivity as Im sure even most delegates wont have an LTE enabled phone. Hotspots?..Maybe…

    1. fourwallsinaroom says:

      Most delegates will have LTE phones remember this is a United Nations delegation coming here. For the rest, Econet has Fibre optic via Liquid at all the major hotels except Saf lodge if am not mistaken, wimax dongles and fixed wimax, and will naturally install plenty of hotspots leveraging the zol spot setup. not a big deal here. Given that there is also a fibre backhaul to bulawayo really the limitation of bandwidth during the conference is a no brainer… On the point of tariffs I have come to realize and accept that my best option is Econet Wimax at 2.5c per Mb which gives me around 1.5Mbps sometimes 1Mbps down. HSPA+ for me is good for that quick download or a quick skype call but I have 90% of my data synced from a wifi connection. Always on is not an issue once you have tweaked your phone in my case android to carry out certain functions at certain times.

      1. Ndini Wenyu says:

        Like your way of looking at things! most of us scream about speed this speed that. yet all we want is reliability.

    2. gweja says:

      LTE, Edge or 3G…the price is the same, at least where I leave on this mother earth! So Econet might follow same trend, unless they pull one of their stunts again!

  4. Ndini Wenyu says:

    Econet need to be clear. At present it is difficult to roll out LTE, because of the multiple bands. You will notice Apple support for LTE in some countries has led to court action because is not as universal as 3G. Its not surprising to see any launch of LTE coming with LTE CPEs from the network provider.

    1. Fourwallsinaroom says:

      Sorry what CPE does apple make? AS i understand it CPE = Customer Premise Equipment. Anyway that said if you are referring to CPE’s as traditionally defined, it will be the same with the different WiMAX modems out there that range from 2.5Ghz to 3.5Ghz. The frequency will be announced.. this is the reason i asked before what bands they will operate on. There is no difficulty in rolling out LTE, its just like UMTS or GSM that have different bands to operate on (eg 800,850, 1800 and 1900…hence the quad band phones out there today…)

      1. LTEer says:

        Econet LTE is being deployed on 1800MHz band..

  5. Chris Mberi says:

    I remember only 6 years ago when some big corporates used take pride in 128kbps links and now a mobile individual can command data through puts thousands of times more. I imagine the possibilities and can’t help but wonder if traditional companies like ZBC really see where things are going.

    1. fourwallsinaroom says:

      I concur with you. With the advent of IP TV its only a matter of time before terrestial tv is a thing of the past. Content delivery via ip is a big thing these days in the first world

    2. ic0n1c says:

      Guess who is doing IP TV trials in Zim… well you probably know so…

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