Today, we attended the Econet VoIP launch we wrote about yesterday. We speculated a lot yesterday about what exactly the product is so we’re quite excited to reveal the accurate details today. Those of you that follow us on Twitter received the news in real-time as we heard it in the morning so no new stuff here for them.
First, the service is being offered through the Econet Broadband division but it’s separate from Econet’s mobile broadband services. It’s being pushed by the fixed broadband guys at Econet. Fixed in that it’s not 3G (or Edge, GPRS etc..) but it still offers some WiMax mobility. Remember the mobile WiMax Ecoweb launched 2 years ago that was quietly suspended when Econet came in with 3G?
Presenting at the launch, Econet commercial director, George Barbaressos, admitted that Econet is not the first with VoIP on the market. Internet access providers that already offer VoIP include Gigatel, Telco, PowerTel, Africom, TelOne, Brodacom and just about every Internet Access Provider wishes to. Barbaressos explained however that there are challenges with these current options on the market, chief amoung them being high installation costs, unavailability of lines and poor internet coverage. These are the issues Econet is proposing to address.
The unavailability of lines and coverage are ofcourse two problems they can address quite easily owing to them having the resources to throw at this. We don’t think there really have been high installation costs, and it’s not like we know Econet for coming into any market to lower any costs in terms of service, but let’s see.
On to the actual product offering, there will be two main packages; VoIP @Work and VoIP @Home.
The @Work package will offer either desk IP phones that connect to the Econet broadband network, Virtual (or soft) PBX, or the last option a physical IPBX at the business premises. The idea here is for Econet VoIP to replace your need for fixed lines. Yes, TelOne, we’re talking about you.
The @Home option is something similar only this time you connect via any device that’s connected to the internet like your personal computer, mobile phone, tablet or other such. You will need what they call a SIP client, which are available all over the internet for free (Nimbuzz, Fring, X-Lite are a few examples).
What you will get from Econet when you sign up is a VoIP number in the format 07720*****, and a password that you will need to setup your SIP client. Econet will help set things up for you ofcourse. One good thing here is that Econet VoIP will have its own call center, so hopefully no call center congestion when you run into a wall.
Barbaressos wouldn’t say what the tariffs are, only promising they would be much lower than regular GSM tariffs. We had an opportunity however to look at some tariffs (which seem to have been taken down now) on the Econet VoIP web platform voip.econet.co.zw and they looked the same as the other VoIP operators are charging. Some US 6 cents for calls within the network and 12 cents for calls to other providers etc… We weren’t particularly surprised by the lower-than-GSM-but-same-as-other-providers tariffs and quite frankly didn’t expect anything wowing here. That website seems not ready for public viewing by the way, so you’ll find a lot of links not working.
Like any VoIP service, you can use any broadband connection under the sun, even though Econet understandably prefers you buy this together with an Econet broadband package.
On the whole, we think it’s a great service. It will definitely get more ‘landlines’ into offices and homes at a rate the country’s fixed line operator has failed to achieve. It will also lessen the burden on Econet’s GSM and generally help those that can’t get good enough GSM signal where they are with an alternative to communicate.
Econet gave all the people that attended the a free gift, a WiMax dongle (this one). Because we like you (and we would really like to promote our site) we are giving it away as a prize in a random draw we will do of all the comments on this story, here on the site, on Facebook, Twitter and even blog posts that mention this story. We will do the draw at end of day tomorrow. Honestly, we have no idea how much it’s worth now but two years ago Econet was selling it for US $175.