No Real Broadband Yet In Zimbabwe

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Slow InternetThis guest post was authored by Fungai Tichawangana. Fungai  is the founder and editor of The Zimbo Jam, Zimbabwe’s leading showbiz, arts and lifestyle website, receiving over 1,3 million page views a month. He is also the Senior Web Imagineer of Exist Digital, a professional web development firm in Harare. He spends a lot of his free time taking photos at events around Harare, capturing the entertainment and social history of our time. His other passion is writing and his articles and photos are published regularly in Zimbabwe’s leading newspapers and online publications.

As the editor of an online magazine that is updated several times a day, the Internet is a critical tool for my team and I. Also, as a member of a web development team doing critical updates and uploads for several clients the Internet is indispensable. So it is totally frustrating the amount of down time we have to deal with in Zimbabwe.

In total, we have FOUR internet connections at the office. WiMAX through Yo Africa and wireless connections through Powertel, Econet and as of last week, Africom. The reason we have so many connections is because none of them provide satisfactory connectivity and none of them really feel like broadband, so we are still shopping for the true broadband experience in Zimbabwe.

There are times when ALL FOUR are down or so slow that you couldn’t download a single word document even if you zipped it. Then, with almost every connection I have tried, the speeds are faster at night and slow down greatly during the day. The providers tell us that this is because more users log on during the day. I say that’s a bad excuse. Broadband should be broadband whether my next door neighbour is awake or not.

Worst of all is the really bad support that comes with the connections. You almost NEVER know why your link is down or slow. They don’t SMS you, don’t email you, and sometimes don’t know what’s up when you call them to find out. For instance I emailed Powertel over two weeks ago to ask why their connection had become so slow all of a sudden. I got a response after a week or so- which said that someone would call me. I am still waiting for that phone call. Perhaps they too have a slow connection?

I rejoiced recently when I heard that Econet was introducing mobile broadband around the country. Then just last week I saw the price list and I laughed. Econet’s new packages are totally elitist and far from their proclamation that they are bringing broadband for everyone. $2 will get you 5MB of data which you have to use within two days. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Let’s put this in perspective. Say you were buying a song online it would cost you $0.99 to buy the song and $2 to download it over an Econet connection. The bandwidth is more expensive than the product! That’s like buying a loaf of bread for US$1 and paying $2 for someone to deliver it. Is this a joke Mr. Mboweni? I hope it is because as a fan of Econet and everything it stands for; I am deeply disappointed by this turn of events.

A friend of mine last week happily told me that he had just paid US$20 for 50Mb of Econet bandwidth. That was until I explained to him that he was being ripped off and that for the same amount he could get twenty times the bandwidth from Africom, which, from my experience currently provides better connection speeds than Econet.

The other ISPs charge about the same for a gigabyte as Econet does, around US$100 except that with Yo Africa and ZOL they don’t charge you for visiting local sites, for weekends and for after hours surfing. So you can use 100GB after hours and you’d still pay only for the 1GB you use during office hours. I totally appreciate this initiative as it gives great flexibility to cash strapped users.

I’ve been told that VSAT is super fast, but the equipment costs you $2 200 and the monthly fees will make you cry.

So I conclude that despite all the full page adverts being taken out in the papers, despite all the digging up of our roads, despite all the noise- there is no real accessible, affordable broadband yet in Zimbabwe.

However, with so many players entering the internet market right now, I know it’s only a matter of time before we start getting competitive packages. I have waited so long already, I suppose I can wait a few more months – albeit painfully.


  1. thefirstavenger

    I would like to agree with the writer of this article. the average consumer is between a rock and a hard spot, either pay through the nose for VSAT or put up with the other lame packages available at the moment. Its absolutely ridiculous that one should have to use 4 different service providers and still have no reliable connection.

  2. William

    My advise is to never go for the VSAT being sold by YoAfrica, ZOL or Ecoweb. Its the worst service I have ever seen in my entire life as it works at night only. However the PowerTel fibre is the best if you have the money.

  3. Nick Tembo

    Very true there is no real broadband in Zimbabwe. Commit’s VSAT is quite good. Econet’s tariffs are very very expensive.

  4. munhu

    Thank you James for your article and for explaining this so well to the average Zimbabweans. You see, i am so frustrated by the comments that are being posted on some articles here, people claiming that so and so are better. No one is better. I have told people that there is no true broadband yet here in Zimbabwe and that this is a global issue affecting our country and service providers take advantage of it. For example When you started web development you where charging your prices, because then your company was the “top notch”. Now you cant coz everyone does it, and some even better. So i would like to thank you once again and seal this by saying to everyone. IF you are not enjoying service from one provider JUST LEAVE AND STOP COMPLAINING.

  5. tary

    true people should stop complaining but and leave but for others they don’t have a choice because there is only one option.

  6. Henry

    dear james, why don’t you post your articles i the newspaper too. many apeople don’t even have an internet nad would never know were they are riped off. we use earth vsat and even their dial up (we can download 10 mb in 15minutes)and we are super happy. we were told fiber would be best but with powertel rent 425.- a month to just get fiber (no bandwidth yet) it is impossible for many. it is not much to wait afew more month to get someone better into the market and hopfully give a service that is called – customer service – thanks Henry

  7. Nutty

    i agree with you about the products being expensive, but my friend to openly write and say there is no real broadband yet in Zimbabwe would be pretty much offensive, if you really know what broadband means maybe you would understand, the problem with Zimbabweans is you expect miracles from these service providers but take a look at your machines or LANs before you start blabbering, yes you have used internet links outside this country but have you considered that they service their machines/LANS and their processors are quite good. i will give an example of someone trying to play an online video on internet explorer without installing flash player, that is the same person who cries the internet link in the country is very slow, please get real and fix your machines first. 512k link in Zim is the same 512k link in SA so dont expect service providers to do miracles on your pentium 1 processors running windows NT. Im very much pissed with all your pathetic cries.

  8. Mk

    The real issue in Zimbabwe is primarily bandwidth links that come into the country. Providers are secondary. Amount of bandwidth capacity is what determines how fast your data transmits, i.e. 384kbps is slower bandwidth compared to 512kbps which means with a 512 your data download is much much faster. Providers are able to throttle these speeds meaning you can have a 512 line but be downloading at only 128kbps. 512 is just the maximum capacity. All this then means how much bandwidth links are coming into Zimbabwe? Unfortunately, not much, and it could be these providers are trying to draw their data from not so much bandwidth as compared to South Africa for example. The real issue is that more infrastructure investment is needed in Zimbabwe to improve bandwidth. Zimbabwe needs to be linked more to the sea cables that Kenya and South Africa are drawing bandwidth from. In SA you can get a 4MB line. Prices go down when more connectivity is created through these cables and more players can come in. So while the prices from Econet etc are still “reaping us off”, that is a secondary issue. The primary issue being is Zimbabwe connected enough to the world?

  9. NancyC

    This is a good article. I own an internet cafe in Harare and our provider Broadlands has let us down badly. We have fibre optic cables yet on average they were only able to deliver 60% of the amount promised. Then they had the audacity to cut their service when we refused to pay for services not rendered! We signed a contract with Broadlands which stated they would reimburse us for their failure to deliver but of course we were never reimbursed. We cut ties with those guys and are now on the hunt for a new internet service provider. Can someone suggest the best option? Stay far far away from BROADLANDS Thanks all in advance!

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