Towards the end of last year Zimbabwe’s state owned mobile operator, NetOne, launched its mobile broadband service. Over the weekend this writer decided to test the service and see how it performs. As a side note, before one is able to use the service, one has to have their line activated for mobile broadband, something which I found bemusing considering that other operators nowadays offer lines already activated.
As for the network itself, currently unlike the other operators, not all areas that have the cell phone network services have data services. An effort to get the coverage map proved fruitless as we failed to get a response from their customer services department. The information we’ve been getting from our sources indicate the Harare city centre has coverage and surrounding surbubs are also getting online even though priority when the service launched was city centre. Most of Bulawayo should also have service as well as other parts of the Midlands province (Gweru). But all this is not officially confirmed information.
The network connectivity was a bit erratic in most parts of the city where I roamed about with many a time not being able to hold a connection for more than 30 minutes straight, and then dropping for more than an hour or two at a time. This happened even in areas such as the Harare city centre and the residential suburbs of Hillside and Eastlea where NetOne itself says subscribers should get good reception.
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Whilst connectivity was largely elusive during most parts of my test, the few times I was able to connect the connection was just about usable. On the phone I was able to do the normal activities one would require of a mobile internet connection i.e. Facebook, Twitter, checking email and instant messaging. When I however tried to use the service on the computer, it really struggled as it failed to open most sites
The following table shows a comparison of the NetOne mobile broadband internet speed to the other two mobile phone broadband providers in Zimbabwe, Econet and Telecel. I used Speedtest.net for the tests. All the speed tests were done in Harare; the city centre, and three residential suburbs.
The SpeedTest app is available on the Android market for phones and on the site for machines, and is an easy basic way to test the speed of your internet connection.
Though the speeds don’t read too badly on the service, the lack of consistent connection is enough cause for concern for any subscriber looking to buy the service. With internet penetration and usage in the country on the rise resulting in decline in SMS usage whilst instant messaging (IM) is on the rise, it is no doubt that the internet is the future and as such NetOne really needs to improve their service to compete and be able to tap into this growing market.
If you happen to be using any of the three providers we compared above, we’d love to know what speeds you are getting and how satisfied you have been with your mobile broadband provider. We especially would love to know what your experience has been if you live outside Harare as we haven’t been able to collect this data. Please share in the comments section below.