To say we didn’t wait one year with bated breath for Econet to launch mobile broadband would be incorrect. We waited, patiently. We naively thought Econet would use its muscle and deep pockets to roll out the most affordable mobile broadband service. So naturally, when we first heard about the new tariffs last week, we thought it was a mistake. We wouldn’t believe it and told ourselves there had to be an explanation. That Econet would correct this misinformation. Maybe some techie there had entered these incorrect tariffs while testing the system. We even wrote Econet a letter, asking them to say something. They did not respond.
It turned out ofcourse three days later that the leaked tariffs were real.
These are the tariffs you get when you dial *140# and select option 1:
- Buy 5MB for $2
- Buy 50MB for $20
- Buy 100MB for $30
- Buy 200MB for $50
- Buy 500MB for $75
- Buy 1GB for $98
If you live in the greater Harare, Econet’s new tariffs are worrying but you’re not without alternatives. Africom and PowerTel both offer significantly more affordable 3G services and they should be making the most of this moment. Using PowerTel for example, US $50 will give you ‘unlimited’ Internet for a month. Africom is charging US $15 for a Gigabyte of data (more on Africom in another article).
But for those of us outside Harare, choices are not as abundant. In fact, in most areas, Econet is pretty much all you have. And Econet knows this.
Both Africom and PowerTel have made promises to switch on services in Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Kwekwe, Kadoma and Chegutu in the next few weeks, but you know what they say about talk, it’s cheap. Weeks can turn into months, and months, years. So if you’re in these areas, we’d say wait but don’t hold your breath.
In terms of mobile broadband coverage, the real formidable challenge to Econet remains Telecel. And maybe NetOne at some point. Econet knows this too.
The quality of the Africom, PowerTel and Econet broadband is ofcourse an important factor in all this. No speed comparison has been made yet. At least we haven’t. We actually think there’s too much noise right now to make any meaningful speed tests. The service providers are signing up hundreds of users per day and these numbers will definitely affect quality. When the dust settles, it’ll be easier to know what you’re getting for your dollars, and to decide what you’ll settle for.
Still it is difficult to understand what Econet’s is trying to do here. Well, we know it’s to get quick returns on the money poured into infrastructure, but you would think it’d try strike a healthy balance there.
Maybe it has to with the drop in revenue that we hear per second billing caused.
Response from Internet users in Zim has been anything but good. Take a look at this Econet 3G Facebook page for example. Or the comments to this article we posted last week when the service was launched. Econet’s standing with subscribers hasn’t been the best lately. Its brand battered by a year of broken promises, dropped calls, cross lines, undelivered (but charged) SMSs, and an inaccessible call center.
Some would question if these problems are real or just perception issues. Indeed some would be quick to point out that both Telecel and NetOne subscribers are experiencing some of the same issues. And to be fair, Econet has invested heavily in the country’s telecoms infrastructure. The company has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into telecoms infrastructure that will form a critical telecoms backbone for Zimbabwe, effectively helping the country take step up to the next level of high speed data access.
Maybe it’s the case of people having bigger expectations for a big operator.
More details about the Econet broadband services are available at a new site dedicated to the service: www.econetbroadband.co.zw.