Many 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.
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.