Telecel customers with data capable handsets are now able to access data services as part of a new phase of Telecel’s data services preparatory pilot project.
The latest phase, which began on Friday (May 13), is intended to enable Telecel to test its data services billing system and the national reach of its data services capability.
The 3G coverage is available in major urban centres and selected tourist resort areas while the rest of the country is on GPRS/EDGE. This outreach will assist in enabling the organisation to optimally cover additional areas based on demand.
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Telecel is inviting all its subscribers with data capable handsets to be part of this phase of the pilot project. It is publishing in the Press guidelines for configuring handsets to access the internet.
Telecel has for some months been providing free data services to a limited number of customers as a way of testing its 3G system. Towards the end of last year it expanded the pilot group by inviting more of its high user customers to be part of the test group.
It has now embarked on the next stage of its pilot project, during which it is extending data access to all its customers and charging for the service at the rate of 10 cents per megabyte on a pay-as-you-go basis. For prepaid subscribers, the data services charge will be deducted from the customer’s normal pre-paid air time balance while for contract customers, they will get their charges at the end of the month as usual. Subscribers that opt not to participate in the trial will not be charged anything.
As airtime balances will be used for voice calls and data access, customers will need to load more airtime than they have been accustomed to when they were using their phones solely for voice calls and text messages.
To facilitate this, OK Bazaars and Bon Marche outlets and other selected airtime distributors will be selling $5.00 dollar electronic airtime vouchers. The $5.00 dollar voucher provides $5.00 airtime, which can still be used for calls to any other network and for data services. Physical high value recharge cards of $5.00, $10.00 and $20.00 will soon be on the market through normal distribution channels.
To configure their handsets customers can follow the general instructions being provided in newspaper advertisements and on Telecel’s website (www.telecel.co.zw) or phone Telecel’s call centre (150) for assistance or visit their nearest Telecel walk-in centre.
A Telecel spokesperson said he hoped that many Telecel customers would take advantage of this stage of Telecel’s pilot project to access the internet and e-mail.
He said he hoped too that customers would provide Telecel with feedback on how well the data services were working.
“This is the latest stage of our testing process prior to launching our 3G service officially. It is important, therefore, for customers to realise that this is a pilot test project and that we need their frank assessment of the service and how we can improve their experience positively.
“There will inevitably be glitches from time to time as we adjust our systems to respond to the feedback we receive from our customers. We still face challenges regarding bandwidth provisioning so service may not always be as good as we would like.
“This feedback from customers will help us to fine tune the service so that we can provide, based on our experience during the pilot project, a first class service when we officially launch our data services,” the spokesperson said.
“Customers throughout the country will be able to participate in this phase of the test project. In Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Chinhoyi and some of the tourist resort areas like Nyanga, 3G service is being provided. In other parts of the country connection to the internet will be via GPRS/EDGE, which is slower than 3G.
“Telecel is interested in hearing from customers nationwide how well the service is operating in their locality so that it can make whatever adjustments are needed during this test phase,” the spokesperson said.