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Ecoweb Quietly Suspends Selling Mobile WiMax

Mobile WiMax Suspended

Mobile WiMax SuspendedMany people wanting to buy the Ecoweb Mobile WiMax service this week were met with an unpleasant surprise: Ecoweb customer service agents are telling prospective customers that the service is no longer available for new customers. Those that insisted for an explanation were just told it was just a directive from the Econet Headquarters. Ecoweb is a subsidiary of Econet Wireless Holdings.

Ecoweb is offering an alternative: A ZTE i600 WiMax modem (or router) being sold for US $390 and has a monthly bandwidth subscription of US $200. The i600 modem requires to be powered so it’s not really a mobile Internet solution. And according this Ecoweb page, the modem is suited for “wireless network connectivity for the home and small office environments.”

If you have been following events though, the suspension is not that surprising. A little over a week ago for example, we received information that Econet is about to release a new broadband service and that the service will be a combination of the successful Ecoweb Mobile WiMax service and the not-so-successful Econet 3G service.

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Econet 3G service subscriptions were suspended about this time last year in an equally silent (and dishonorable actually) fashion. No explanations whatsoever in the media. We were just told one by one when we visited the Econet centers that the service was suspended, and that if we waited a few weeks they’d be selling it again. Of course, the few weeks never came. And after a few months we all just stopped asking.

So yes, Ecoweb, this is really frustrating. Especially because yours is actually quite a great internet service.

Those frustrations aside, the few weeks seem to be around the corner now. And even though we’ve been lied to and abused as customers we are strangely really looking forward to the new ‘converged’ service.

All signs point to the fact that Econet is on to something here. I risk a strong backlash in the comments but I’m just going to say it how I see it. They may have miss-stepped a bit and angered us all with the 3G service but Ecoweb’s Mobile WiMax is evidence they learnt a lot from the nasty experience. And hey, the guys have been working on this thing here for a whole year. Digging trenches, laying fibre, putting up “90 base stations in 90 days” and posting evidence of the hard work on YouTube. I don’t know about you but I am putting my money on these guys.

With Africom touting free bandwidth for a month though, this Mobile WiMax suspension is a bit ill timed. It boldly says to prospective customers: “We’re closed right now, why you don’t go sample our competition’s products and see if you like them.” You’d have to have a very superior product in store to even consider doing this. What if the potential customers get to like the Africom mobile Internet service and never think of coming back? What if this “sorry we’re closed” message is just the last straw for a lot of people after going through a frustrating twelve months of broken promises?

UPDATE: Just received a response from Econet Corporate Communications Manager, Mr. Ranga Mberi on the subject:

Indeed, new mobile WiMax connections have been deferred to allow preparation for our impending broadband launch. Details will be released to the market soon.
As you correctly note, our mobile WiMax did meet with significant market endorsement. We appreciate this, and we are developing a broader package of data solutions for our valued customers.

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8 thoughts on “Ecoweb Quietly Suspends Selling Mobile WiMax

  1. I hope your right….

    To be fair, Econet probably have the best stance in the country at the moment to provide an awesome internet experience, but as usual i will believe it when i see it..

  2. There goes econet again silently removing things without informing the public. I think in essence they have stopped this service because of africom i just got a message from econet on my phone saying by mid october they will have different packages at “competitive prices” simply put these are prices not so inspired to rip your pocket. I will believe when i see it this is econet we are talking about

  3. Econet seems to have been spooked by Africom’s move. Econet came onto the market with their mobile GPRS, talk about a crummy service the thingy was just plain lousy. Africom has come onto the market with broadband mobile computing that works very well despite a few hiccups here-and-there unsurprising with the introduction of such a service. I for one am very very pleased with Africom’s mobile broadband not to mention their seemingly professional customer service. Econet’s customer service, it’s like a verbal exchange with touts and comby drivers at Mbare musika, downright rude, stupid and totally unprofessional. Get your act together Econet because right now your data services are a outright joke.
    Telecel will most likely be introducing mobile broadband soon, so at the end it didn’t make sense for Econet to continue with their rather expensive Ecoweb wimax broadband.

  4. if it was not for the price, i believe Ecoweb’s 4G Mobile Wimax was the best thing to hit mobile broadband in Zimbabwe…The way i see it, the only thing Ecoweb has to do is work on making affordable their 4G service, the price of their modems is way too much (small profit, but quick returns is the way to go). For a heavy or power internet user the monthly subscription that Ecoweb charge is more or less a little bit high, however since their internet access is really unlimited and 95%+ avaliabilty, when one calculates the amount of money needed to get just a small average of 5-10 Gigabytes of data per month using the “juice as you go method”, the amount of money needed is unbelievable. Mobile Wimax in it’s self is a great service which has been mainly championed by Intel the computer microprocessor powerhouse. This service provides a chance for a really reliable mobile broadband solution, with no limits.

    Econet aka Ecoweb, simply lost the plot by insufficient marketing coupled by an over ambitious pricing scheme which failed to take into consideration the “unique” economy they were about to launch the service in.

    It really pains my heart to see such a potentially reliable and solid service go to waste due to lack of proper appreciation, understanding and overpricing.

    Econet/ Ecoweb, has to remember that convergence of voice and data should be a platform that must be separately marketed and operated, which is different from a specifically data dedicated service but both serving different needs of the client.

    All Ecoweb has to do is aggressively market their mobile broadband solution. Secondly they have to increase network coverage across the country in as many areas as possible. Lastly they have to acquire more bandwidth to ensure a fast, reliable and affordable service, which will really be able to hold it’s own against any competition.

    This concoction of 3G, 4G etc etc etc, spells nothing but disaster for me.

  5. I’m actually not surprised that Ecoweb had to suspend sales to new customers. The quality of service (speed, reliability) has been in steady decline for the last two months and I can only assume this is because they have reached the capacity of their current infrastructure.

    If they are sharing infrastructure with Econet (which I assume they will be) then I can only see service getting worse in the short term. I’m tempted to try out the Africom system but I imagine they will also overstretch fairly quickly – this seems to be the experience of all the ISPs in Zim.

  6. I wonder if Econet listens to the views of subscribers considering that every comment on their service berates it’s uncaring attitude and a tendency not to robe in ideas from those who will use the services. Instead, they want to craft products and services to their liking.
    Long back (about 8-10yrs ago), when I complained about lack of sms2email, they told me flatly that they are not obliged to giving the service and they said, “…after all, not many Zimbabweans were not versed in internet”!

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