We’ve just learnt that PowerTel, the state owned Internet Access Provider, has opened up its 3G service PowerConnect, to more subscribers. Powertel launched the mobile Internet service in 2007 but stopped signing up more subscribers after its network system reached capacity.
Opening PowerConnect to new subscribers follows a network expansion project that has seen higher capacity base stations for the service being installed to augment the existing infrastructure. In addition to the greater Harare, coverage is also extending to more cities. According to PowerTel sales and marketing manager, Mr. Willard Nyagwande, the cities of Bulawayo, Gweru and Kwekwe will be switched on in the coming two weeks.
Mr. Nyagwande also revealed that the expansion project has boosted the 3G subscriber capacity to about 10,000.
You will realize ofcourse that the past two months have been about the launch of mobile broadband services from two other leading Internet access providers. Africom launched its own 3G service just a few weeks ago and were it not for some internal delays we hear are going on there; the provider would have released the mobile broadband tariff schedule four days ago. Econet, the largest telecommunications company in Zimbabwe just suspended its Ecoweb 4G service in preparation for the launch of a more comprehensive Econet Broadband service in a week from now.
The consumer is getting bombarded with so much choice it’s hard to imagine that just three months ago, the only mobile broadband solution was the insanely overpriced Ecoweb 4G service. The providers are throwing in a service every week you can be forgiven to think we have a mobile broadband war brewing right before us. And such neck and neck competition benefits none other than us the consumers.
If we were to compare compare prices that have been released to the public so far, the PowerTel service would take the most affordable service award. But affordability doesn’t speak for quality of service, and Techzim hasn’t tested the new service yet so the jury is still out on that one. PowerTel is charging a flat monthly charge of US $50 for uncapped bandwidth.
Mr. Nyagwande hints they may revise it downwards and we suspect PowerTel is waiting for the Econet and Africom tariff schedules to see if they can beat them by a few dollars. We’re trying to get more details about the Africom service post the one month free bandwidth promotion, and we’ll update once we do. With the widest coverage and the biggest purse, Econet will probably make it very hard to beat their price. But Econet doesn’t have the cleanest record when it comes to service quality.
What are your thoughts? Will you buy the PowerTel service? Will you wait for Africom launch of paid mobile broadband? Or maybe you’ll wait for Econet. Please let us know in the comments below.