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ZOL sets the bar higher, introduces $60 ‘unlimited’ broadband

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ZOLite Details

These are exciting times for people looking for more affordable bandwidth. Zimbabwe Online (ZOL), one of Zimbabwe’s largest ISPs, has introduced a low priced broadband product called ZOLite.

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ZOL is calling it unlimited broadband but that of course can mean a lot of things in this Internet business; and they do explain how they mean it:

ZOLite Details

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In other words, it’s some kind of ‘Fair Access Policy’.

It’s comparatively the lowest price for multi-user broadband on the market currently. It’s the lowest in the sense that ZOL doesn’t cut you off after you exhaust your bundle (1GB in this case), they just don’t prioritize your traffic (however they do that!).  This will probably push the other players to match or peg their broadband offerings even lower. We hope.

One thing to note is that setting this up will cost you US $595, the once off price of the WiMax kit.

Update: We just got an email correction that TelOne actually has the lowest fixed broadband through its ADSL service. We’re not sure at the moment if this is available for new subscriptions and we will check. More when we hear back. Thanks David.


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36 thoughts on “ZOL sets the bar higher, introduces $60 ‘unlimited’ broadband

    1. Sorry relative to what?  I’d love to engage with you in a discussion on prices as our margins are razor-thin. But you going to need to say more than this!  There are many things in Zim that are way too expensive still – and generally we all know the reason why.  The main reason BW is expensive in Zim is because of the high cost our neighbors charge to get us to the sea!

      1. The initial setup cost is still a bit steep, otherwise the subscriptions are nearer to zero. Mostly people who require cheaper options are home users and for them(us) $595-00 is still expensive!

      2. Wonder, i will agree with you there. High-end users are usually the corporates, and for a home user to fork out $595 as start up, cheese and whiskers! Most would rather get the Africom at $18 a month and $97 startup, or worse, Econet!!

  1. This is an update/upgrade of our ZimSurfer package.  In the “good old days” of ZWD, we used to have a 256k unlimited package using TelOne bandwidth. In those days TelOne bandwidth was both very cheap and very bad (congested).  We wanted to offer something in ZWD that was affordable.  Since then TelOne bandwidth has become expensive (in USD terms vs the old ‘parallel’ rate), but has also become high quality since they connected to the EASSy submarine cable a few months back.  We have therefore increased the price and the speed and called it ZOLite.  It is meant to be an affordable entry level for Broadband with a “fixed fee”.  Typical usage should be under 1GB a month and is mostly targeted at home users and single-person offices. If people jump on this service to abuse it, they are going to find it is very slow and highly congested.  We will actively work to reduce speed of heavy users to protect the quality for lighter users.

    For customers wanting reliable and consistent speeds and using over 1GB of traffic, we highly recommend one of our CIR/dedicated packages.

    People must understand that offering truly “unlimited” in this market is foolhardy and unrealistic.  We (as ISPs) are billed on volume by the IAPs and pricing (relative to rest of world) is still very high.  This is akin to offering motorists “unlimited fuel” for a monthly fixed fee. To quote a colleague “if you offer an all you can eat package, people eat all you have”.  We are going to be very careful not to let this service affect our other customers and we will equally severely restrict abusers of this service.I appreciate the $595 hardware fee is a lot of money – but that same hardware can then be used for upgrades to any of our packages. For about double the price ($150) you get 3.5GB and 1mbps dedicated. Or for an upgrade to just $99 you get 2GB at 512k dedicated.Prices are here: http://www.zol.co.zw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=90&Itemid=204David BehrCEO ZOL 

  2. Believe me they can limit you.. when we were on “capped” package everything crawled to a halt once we exceeded

    1. Yes we spent a lot of money on our shaping system. It is effective 🙂  I wish we could give free, unlimited, uncapped service – but that’s not a reality!  In theory we have no problem with you going over your cap and still getting fast service if you pay per GB. The problem is our system is post-paid (unlike pretty much everyone else).  You cannot believe the number of people who at the end of the month say “oh but I never used that” or “Well I got a virus, sorry, I’m not paying for that usage it wasn’t my fault” – despite all customers getting a daily email notice showing what they used the day before!

      We will introduce pre-paid shortly which will take care of this major issue.

  3. I wish all MNO, ISPs and IAP could respond effectively and in detail like David regrading their products and questions raised on this website. We will be better informed in terms of the products and service. I challenge other players in this market to also explain in detail as David is doing. Thanks David for the clarity! I am sold!

  4. @4a81ba4591a67a366b567ba97afe8c9a:disqus  Sorry to say this but lm not convinced or should l say impressed with your charges. When l first read $60 l said great same as PowerTel but probably works? Going through the details made me change my mind and left surprised.

    Here is why:

    1. The setup fees. $600!!!!! God have mercy. What is it that you are giving your customer that cost such canning amount of money. What sort of hardware are you setting up, is the hardware from Mars or what? Surely if it was for the masses you will choose a simpler cheaper setup method and hardware

    2. After paying such huge setup fees then you part again with another $60-70 every month for a little 1gig amount, are you serious? Do honestly think people will pay that amount to for 1 gig guaranteed then everything after is a MAYBE?

    3. Who is your intended  target? Surely it cannot be a everybody who is after entertainment. You know for sure that after paying such amount of money, the first thing a person does is download there favourite movies. And most HD movies start at 3gig.

    4. What is it with TE you are so keen to talk about? What is the ratio you are gonna use to limit “heavy” users? What is the minimum speed one is going to download at after TE is applied? What is the minimum and maximum speed for uploading after shaping?

    1. Point 1: There are no cheap, reliable last mile options in Zim. That’s why everything is expensive. In Europe or the US there was an existing, well-provisioned telephone system. Zim’s clearly isn’t capable of supporting the traffic demands so the only option is to introduce new technology. 3G isn’t really scalable to the needs of the whole country so 3.9G/4G is probably the best option for now. It isn’t that cheap to set up (partly because trained staff are expensive) and, to be honest, it probably isn’t as reliable as a good ADSL link but those are few and far between. At least its scalable and better suited to the mobile devices that most Zimbabweans are likely to use to access the web in the next 5 years or so. 

      Point 2: Virtually all Internet traffic is transported using ‘best effort’ so no ISP in the world will actually offer you a service guarantee. I agree that more specific information on how ZOL will limit traffic should be provided though (are they going to halve speeds? Quarter them?).

      On point 3, you can hardly expect an ISP to condone illegal downloading (unless Netflix has started operating in Zim…) and, frankly, it is just unrealistic for customers in Zim to think that HD movie downloads are an option given our limited infrastructure. And that’s not really ZOL’s fault is it?

      1. 1) TelOne copper is generally a good last mile + could be cheap.  Unfortunately the regulator (POTRAZ) has not force TelOne to unbundle it.  TelOne used to charge ZOL about $20 per month for a single pair.  I say “used to” because TelOne now refuses to sell the copper lines to ISPs as they want to do the service themselves.  Unlike in the UK where BT was forbidden from directly entering the market initially (to stop a monopoly), in Zimbabwe new entrants are forbidden from entering by the incumbent. Keep in mind before you are even allowed to offer a last mile you must pay the government US$4 million.  That kinda drives off people like ZOL being able to afford to our own last mile, and also drives all costs up.  This is in addition to approximately 5% of all revenue from IAPs that must get paid to POTRAZ.  Then you have 15% VAT!  All in all, depending on service, at least 25-50% of end-user cost is paid direct to government.

        2) Well that is sort of right. All is “best effort” typically – but as long as a pipe is not full, “best effort” is as good as “guaranteed”.  For example when ZOL buys an STM-1 (that is 155mbps) from an upstream provider we pretty much get that all the way to the Internet (e.g. Google, YouTube etc)

        3) I agree Zim has limitations – or rather limitations in price.  You can download all your HD movies you want (and I assume you will use a legal service), but you cannot assume it will cost the same as it would in USA for example.

      2.  Though l agree with your view, l disagree on point three because in real world over thats what people do and thus the main reason of paying for faster internet downloads.

        There are more legal uses for downloading large files like for example, l like testing new Linux distros and l use P2P for downloads because of reliable file checksum. So if l was going to be a ZOL customer, there internet policeman will at my door everyday.

        1. Macd, you are an Internet “power user” and you assume everyone is like you (I make the same mistake all the time so I can relate to you).  Believe it or not, there are many people in Zim (and the world) who want to do a few emails, browse some news sites, maybe watch a little YouTube – i.e. not use much Internet and not want to worry about “over usage” if they happen to do something big by mistake (or get a virus etc).  This is our target market for this product.  There are many packages at ZOL – aimed at different types of you users.  I don’t think it is fair for you take our basic, entry-level, low-usage package and say “well this won’t let me be a power user”.  

          I believe the article was applauding us bringing in a well priced product at a low entry-level price for what it is.  It wasn’t about us introducing a mass market service that is so cheap we cannot service properly.If you want to watch illegal DVDs, it is way cheaper to just buy a pirate DVD from our local Jack Sparrow the pirate – who amazingly seems immune from the law. I sure wish I could catch him – he steals bandwidth from ZOL – and yes I mean steal.  I’ll catch him one day – I have a good case history already. 

          1.  Yes you are right David, l quickly celebrated when l read the headline before l got into the details. You know people like me likes very extremely fast internet but we dont want to pay 🙂

            For now, l will stick with PowerTel because when there is no electricity cuts, it does seem to work.

            But thanks anywhere, you are good chating buddy. But on the other note, are you a customer of Phorm lnc? That company which sneaks into people internet activities and spy on them reporting back to the master, hopefully you are not!!.

            Your last lines got my attention, it seems like you are happy to install spying software at ISP level targeting your customers. Am l wrong?

            1. we don’t have the time, energy or money to do what you suggest!  Jack Sparrow is not my customer (not a paying one at least).  However, if you steal from me, I will  use everything in my power to bring you to justice.  It amazes me that law enforcement is not concerned with someone breaking everyone copyright law there is!

            2. Thanks  God you are not! That will give a good night sleep. I think you are asking a lot from our Law Enforcement people. They can only enforce what they know, internet is not broadly understood in Zim.

              So how are you going to convince a police officer that somebody stole your internet(bandwidth) and make him react. l think a lot of training and awareness is required for our officers so that they know what they are looking for.

              Even in the British Pond they had similar problems and l understand its only recently when they formed a specialised unity to deal with that.

    2. 1) ZOL makes no money on the hardware.  Cost of financing these CPEs (you need to order at least $250k at a time) is high. There is a cheaper indoor unit (about $300).  Prices are still coming down as volumes increase.

      2) I am serious.  The $60 is an unlimited connection – not 1GB as you say. You said it right when you said “When l first read $60 l said great same as PowerTel but probably works?”.  You might want to ask why PowerTel doesn’t work!  Maybe that price for full speed/unlimited is not realistic?

      3) ZOL is focused more as a “business class” ISP.  Our market is not “everybody who is after entertainment”.  We want to offer high quality Internet to business critical operations.  As per our price list – we won’t cut you off after your 3GB of HD movie downloads!

      4) What is TE?  Am I being dumb?

      1. @4a81ba4591a67a366b567ba97afe8c9a:disqus  TE =Traffic Engineering which is the traffic shaping.

        Ok now l understand, its not for everyone which the article seems to have been pointing. On that bases, you are right to charge whatever you think makes a business sense.

  5. Frankly telcos offering personal dongles are where customers are at, including business ones prepared to buy personal USB modems for their staff. Precisely what many are doing right now. A US$600 kit to hook up? Good luck ZOL! Yes there are regulatory impediments to your business model in Zim. But then again it’s not just Zim where telcos are grabbing web customers away from soon-to-be-extinct internet-over-landline ISPs. Its a global phenomenon! Internet traffic coming from smartphones, tablets and other small devices is rising at whoosh! speed. And these customers are virtually corralled by wireless telcos.

    1.  l would have thought thats what any SP who wants to corner the market would do. l believe thats where everything is going considering the on and off  muttering of 4G.

    2. Dongles for a business?? What kind of business would buy go-karts for employees. Network traffic has to be monitored to some degree in a business environment. It’s difficult if not impossible to manage everyone’s dongle usage at the office.

      The $600 MiMAX kit and installation cost is justified, it’s way different from a satellite dish installation, believe me I’ve done it before.Good internet will always come at a cost, we just have to live with that. 

      1. But then again if your IT infrastructure is cloud based well… Granted, most companies in Zim simply don’t have a cloud vision, a few do most don’t. And yes cloud infrastructure is not for everyone but definitely suit the vast majority of small-medium businesses.

        1. @James…”cloud based”??.. Let’s be realistic, this is Zimbabwe not those other countries we want to be in.

        1. @James, @Kalpesh…”cloud based”??.. Let’s be realistic, this is Zimbabwe not those other countries we want to be in.

          1. lol, Itai, my “very well said” reply was praising your comment:

            “Dongles for a business?? What kind of business would buy go-karts for employees. Network traffic has to be monitored to some degree in a business environment. It’s difficult if not impossible to manage everyone’s dongle usage at the office.The $600 MiMAX kit and installation cost is justified, it’s way different from a satellite dish installation, believe me I’ve done it before.Good internet will always come at a cost, we just have to live with that.”

            im not sure how cloud computing is related in this conversation to be honest…………

  6. $600 for a set-up,thats where you are losing the plot David,how many can afford that?…good luck..i hear Africom is expanding to other areas now (with less fuss and costs too)…beware!

  7. @ea25193fe8b994b12d8d7ce0e892a1b6:disqus Most Linux distros can be downloaded freely from archive.ubuntu.org.zw/ubuntu/ which is hosted by Yoafrica! Since this is local bandwidth it will cost you nothing and speeds typically are around 1MBps on Zolspots. Also in case of updates YoAfrica has free repositories for most distributions including Ubuntu (from natty to Lucid), Centos, Fedora and Debian. In fact whenever I install Ubuntu I go for the 15 minutes Free Zolspot and run the apt-get install vlc&& apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras commands which take less than 3 minutes using the local repositories.

    1. Good tip thanks! One way of saving-up data downloading linux distros. Looks like I will be visiting folks at YoAfrica again each I need that latest linux distro!

  8. Fascinating to read all the comments. Have just been doing a cross SADC study on broadband. I am floored by the fleecing tendency of the operators, across the board. I think all have been taking advantage of the fact that Zimbabwean consumer expectations have been lowered so much they have learnt to accept all manner of poor service(Had a particularly nasty experience with Econet). Within a year the problem of international connectivity will be a thing of the past and service providers better be aware that they cant continue to have “smart answers” for fair customer requests and continue to engage in short termism.

  9. start up or set up will always cost you an arm and a leg, simply because of the infrastructure development taking place in the country as far as ICT is concernd, so letz give them a chance to work themselves out, it will be a while before pricez come down on hardware or service provision on the end user! and who tha heck is jack sparrow? 

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