Finally had a chance to talk to an Econet customer service person and here’s some clear information about the 3G service.
Is 3G available in all areas with Econet coverage in Zimbabwe? No. As of 28 August 2009, 3G became available in the greater Harare CBD and it remains so to this day. Once you’re out of this area your phone automatically downgrades to EDGE or GPRS depending on the base station serving signals. This means if you live and work in a region that is not part of the greater Harare CBD, you’re currently not on 3G and that’s why you’re surprised at “why all the hype for such slow connectivity”. But don’t get mad yet, there’s hope still; Econet will be rolling out 3G to a base station near you before the year ends. I agree though, they should have mentioned this in the adverts.
If I’m already on GPRS do I automatically start getting 3G? Yes! The phone will detect and give you the highest internet connectivity of 3G, GPRS and EDGE. You don’t need to subscribe for 3G.
Available for all subscriber platforms (buddie, liberty, business partna)? Yes!
Can I do video calling with a subscriber not on 3G? No. But at the rate Zimbabweans are scrambling for 3G, most of your friends will probably have it shortly.
Adverts say with 3G one can watch movies, do they mean now the connection is fast enough to download movies, or we can have movies streamed to our phones? The Econet guy didn’t have an answer for this but he mentioned that third parties will start developing video services and phone applications, music services, local websites will develop mobile versions etc…because the platform is ready!
And as for which phones support 3G; well, make sure you ask the sales rep before you buy that phone. You (or a geek friend) can check the technical specs for any mention of 3G or UMTS. Or just go to Phonegg and pick out your favourite brand. Too bad Econet hasn’t partnered with any manufacturer to subsidize phones in exchange for a contract, but I can see this coming shortly too. In the meantime you’ll have to fork out for them smart phones. An expensive lot they are.