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An early review of the Utande uMAX service

On Tuesday (20 June 2012) I had the pleasure of an 8 O’Clock press conference with some pretty bland exec types and a Pretty cool talking animated giraffe named Max.

Utande was launching their “SME and Home” Wimax service, with all the hoopla and promises we have heard from all the other ISPs when they launched theirs. As sceptical as I was, I attended and got the WPA2 pass into the trusted iPhone for one of the Kiosks Modem thingys and started to stretch test and see what this was about.

First test: iPhone app

Results:  STAGGERING… Seriously, kept testing and constantly got over 1.2 Mbps Downlink and always around 450kbps Uplink.

Some history if I may: I am currently a WiMax customer of one of the biggest ISP in Zimbabwe (soon to change I assure you) and for the $170 I am supposed to get at 1mbps Downspeed and equivalent Up. What I get instead is 10-11 days of running at slow speeds. I often find it quicker to drive 20kms to clients to drop of a 5mb PDF. For the other 10 days of the month, I spend the majority of my time and airtime calling and visiting this ISPs offices to complain about no service at my home, and then the last 10 days of the month on the road to the various Big Cheese’s I do tech for, calling and visiting the ISP’s offices to complain about no service at THEIR home!

I often find putting some cheap bundles on my trusted mobile phone line and tethering my laptop to my iPhone to be the only way I can actually send an email, because the ISP’s WiMax Up-speed, trickles at 4-6kbps when it’s in a good mood. And it’s not just this particular ISP that has failed me. I also have internet dongles from most of providers that launched mobile broadband services in the past 2 years and they have all been disappointing.

So uMax. Wow! After being really impressed by the speeds at the press launch, I managed to crash their party in the evening on the top of Joina City with the spectacular view of Harare. There, witnessed a guy live streaming the football match, whilst some lady was on Skype Video with someone on the Balcony… did another speed test and was still getting 1.24 Mbps down and around 500kbs up.

My WhatsApp was working like a charm, I was Instagramming, Skped my brother in Ireland till all the fun stopped when my battery died around 9PM.

My days tests:

I’ve been to a few of these “launches” and this is the first company that has been able to back its claims at the launch. Most companies don’t even deliver half their promise at launch.

If Utande’s uMAX service reaches my area, I am definitely going to give it a go. I know that once a lot of folk jump onto the service, that’s when the proper stress test comes. Most of these ISPs failing to deliver quality service now are just suffering from failing to scale to their high subscriber numbers and in some cases unsustainable “Unlimited” packages.

In a brief chat with Utande’s Collin, the funky genuis ‘murungu’ who has built the network from ground up, he told me that he was confident that the network would scale properly as more people come on board and his priority is making sure the user experience is 1st world all the time. Well, I’ll believe that when I see that, because I’ve been bitten once.

Check them out at their Kiosks around Zim… locate them at

Author: Kuda Musasiwa
Image credits: Kuda Musasiwa

Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

46 thoughts on “An early review of the Utande uMAX service

  1. Blaz, weren’t you just speedtesting to the ZOL server? What was your destination? Cos if you left it at default, you were just testing to Harare 🙂

    Also, any ISP with a new product opens all the gates wide, when they don’t have subscribers. Test it in 1 year and see. Maybe even 6 months. WiMAX unoiziya mushe?

      1. BTW, I did not mean to suggest it would have been worse to the rest of the world! I am sure it would have been just as good. But it does draw into question the author’s bias and lack of real understanding of the Internet 🙂

        1. Hey Dave,

          Thanks for pointing out my “Lack of Understanding of the Internet”, would love to show you the Speedtest results from my residence now, on YOUR “Service” which I can’t access right now because it times out like an american Basket ball game in the last 4 mins!

          Type this tethered again to Telcel, coz my ZOL won’t load Disqus, coz of some “Virus” warning ZOL loves to give, even on

          Instead of Trolling Techsites, Mr CEO, hows about taking some of that money we pay you and You fix your terrible Wimax Service.

          Your truely


          PS: Just noticed your ZOL Ad at the top… ***Sigh***

          1. Kuda – “the virus warning ZOL loves to give” is automatically shown when a single CPE opens an extraordinarily high number of TCP connections. We do it to help our customers because the number one cause of too many connections is a virus/hack. The number two cause is serious abuse of the service (way beyond the Acceptable Use Policy). I assume being an IT guy you don’t have a virus. At least we now know why your ZOL WiMAX is so bad! I think that kinda proves my point 🙂 Regarding the ad, we pay TechZim to have that ad above *EVERY* article. I think uMAX is very cool in every way and it will be good competition. I personally feel you could have written an interesting article about a great launch and product without slamming a competitor just because you have your own personal issues. I am not going to continue this discussion sorry.

            1. Dave Dave Dave

              I run a modern house hold.

              My wife on her iPhone and maybe tinkering in her iPad. My kids on the iMac on a Barbie site. My iPhone on and maybe my laptop or iPad.

              U have access to my usage. Have a look. The error page happens even on your zol spots. The service sucks coz it does. And you mentioned “the competition not me.

              As a customer should you be rowing with me on public forums.

              Dude. Get a grip.

              1. I didn’t know ZOL had a $170 package. Are you sure it’s not $70? I just
                learnt a super-cool new term recently… contention rate, Max doesn’t
                have a lot of people on his network so he will have neck-breaking
                speeds. For now!

                And what’s an iMac?

                Disclaimer: I am super close to both ZOL and Utande owners. This article seems biased (kind of like my own rants about s**t restaurants in Zim… but I am not a journalist 🙂 ).

              2. I’m not a journo either. Just a guy trying to be reasonably connected. If Dave and team said on ZOL WiMAX u can only connect 1 laptop and no smart phones or tablets then cool. But they done. And it is $170 for 1mbs 3.5GB during the day and “unlimited off peak”. To Zols consolations they aren’t as bad as telone

              3. Jt doesn’t like my car. I think its swaggy!

                It’s got to do with why Zol blocks websites coz it believes it’s customers are virus. U can’t pay for a wifi service that only allows I laptop at a time dudes. Serious. It’s 2012

              4. Wat Da!?
                “I run a modern house hold.

                My wife on her iPhone and maybe tinkering in her iPad. My kids on the
                iMac on a Barbie site. My iPhone on and maybe my laptop or iPad.”

                You drive a battered 406 with different shades of paint like the rainbow, idiot.
                Dude, get over yourself!!! hahahaha (facepalm)

              5. My car is beautiful! :-).

                My dude. From Daves little rant you can not connect more than 4 devices on zol WiMAX. Now as I get over myself think about that for a sec. Any one with a smartphone a laptop wife kids on computer with a smartphone are considered a VIrus on Dave’s service? Wow.

        2. Dave, what’s the typical (unbiased) link speed for ZOL customers to ZOL servers via “ZOL’ s WiMax”? So we may get a real understanding of the internet.

          1. Tapiwa, I couldn’t be unbiased 🙂 WiMAX like all radio/wireless products vary greatly depending on how the radio waves propagate to your house, as well as the number of other customers on the same base station with you. No different to 3G either really in that sense. WiMAX has a particularly bad name in Zimbabwe for a number of reasons, but there are no inherent issues with it technically – and Max has thought this through carefully – he’s a smart fellow 🙂

            1. @4a81ba4591a67a366b567ba97afe8c9a:disqus I think the major question here is are we as ISPs delivering on our brand promise? When we promise them the will “love” our service or they will “connect to success” to we go beyond the print and actually fulfill these promises. That is all that matters. Not the attenuation or propagation of signal or number of customers in an area – that’s the ISP’s baby (network planning).

              After all ISPs are in business to facilitate an exchange of value. Customers give ISPs money and they should provide a commensurate service without excuses. No politics involved.

    1. Isn’t it common knowledge that speedtest (by default) tests your connection speed by connecting to nearest server (geographically)? If you want to test an international uplink, choose a different (foreign) server.

      I’d be happy to know that the competing ISPs can also sustain >1Mbps speeds to local servers.

      BTW: I fully agree that the speeds will degrade when the subscriber count increases – remember when Econet was fast?

    2. @Joe I had the same thought. I’m a uMAX beta tester and made the remark that the 1 Mbps I was seeing on was last-mile (plus a bit more) only. Colin said this was not the case, and I proved this by running the Xfinity speedtest (, and selecting a server in Boston to test to. I’ve just rerun the same test to Seattle – essentially testing the last 10 000 miles – and results are: Ping 438 ms, Download speed 1.05 Mbps, Upload speed 0.38 Mbps.

      So, 1 Mbps anywhere. You’re correct that the test will be the next 6 months and beyond, but Utande have started out delivering on their claims!

      1. Interesting that your ISP in this speed test is Corporate networks some 150miles from Harare. I dont think you are using Utande.

  2. Very interesting and we honestly wish Utande the best of luck. There is nothing wrong with good healthy competition – will raise all our games and the consumer wins! I know Kuda is talking of ZOL (so let’s say it), and I know the “big cheese” (not various) Kuda is referring to – and Kuda knows very well what the issue was! Nevertheless extrapolating that experience makes a more interesting article 🙂 Since an ISP cannot own WiMAX it is not particularly fair to call it ZOL’s WiMAX, although we accept responsibility as we are the resellers. The good news is we have shifted a lot of capacity to a greatly improved vendor now and things are working a lot better! Unfortunately wireless networks do suffer from congestion in the end without very careful management and capacity upgrades. Unfortunately one area Kuda is factually incorrect on is that ZOL (or any other honest ISP) would EVER sell or market WiMAX as a symmetrical service. By its very nature it is asymmetric.

  3. excellent article! despite the troll in some of the comments… i actually can appreciate your point of view. would be keen to see a review of speedtests done to the uk and south africa over different times of the day.

  4. *Sigh* How naive peeps are. Of COURSE it’s going to be “fast” when they are launching. Duuuh. I quote Joe ”
    WiMAX unoiziya mushe?”

  5. This gets us back to the donglewanaland concept which was articulated here some time ago – (here used to mean moving to every new provider while it still offer better services

    1. Hardly a punch I would say. In my opinion, Utande doesnt even need to tout its product. You just have to taste it.

  6. like i said, these guys know wat they are doing,i have been with them, i have used their uMAX service and it has been exceptional. of-course we all cannot be perfect but these guys strive to deliver the best service. you call their numbers,you are answered, you call the call centre, you get an almost immediate response, this is so unlike many other ISP’s around that couldnt care less about their customer, and more for their pockets. the other day i tried calling ZOL after hours and was left holding by the answering service for more than 10mins. i got frustrated and hung up after several attempts. this has never happened at Utande. keep up the excellent work Utande. im with you all the way.

  7. Gosh, this utande service is unbelievable!!!!! Everything happens instantly. The real whammer was when i tried to stream some youtube vids. I expected the usual never ending buffering…. non of that!!! Smooth uninterupted and nearly instant playback. These people have me screaming with excitement. KEEP IT UP GUYS!!!

    1. It looks like you have mistakenly or deliberately selected a SouthaAfrican server for ZOL and a Harare server for Utande? I really have an effect, not that I am implying anything!

      1. Nope. This ain’t zol bashing. The article was seriously redacted ad censore so seemed like that. Zol just sucks. They aren’t the worst. But with they could shape up. I’m not loyal to no one except my pocket ad experience. If they worke with their off peak unlimited. I’d cheer lead as head of Team Dave. But what’s the use of unlimited off peak when u can’t access ur email?

  8. Gentleman, might good, but do you realize that the stats are
    peak/burst, and not constant?? Why dont you download a
    large file and see what download speed you get coz that will show you the
    expected constant bandwidth.

    1. We’ll have proper feedback if they manage to grab market of users sizeable enough to test capacity.

      All the best to them!

  9. Firstly thanks for the article. Your comments and the advertising campaign persuaded me to try uMax. I am no techie so all the talk of speed tests and where they are going doesn’t get me excited, but I’ll tell you that this is the best internet service I have had in Harare. I am blown away. The wireless thingy was easy to set up and I was skyping with full video to the UK last night and it was great, no stopping and the voice and video were clear.
    Well done to uMax.

  10. Hands up all the happy delighted ZOL customers…. HIP HIP ….***sound of crickets***

  11. It is naive to think that a launch-test is reflective of how it will compare when users subscribe and if they reach the masses.

    I have been to such launches, and was wowed like you were…but as time went on, the promises and goodwill all faded. QoS has always declined. I also have a box of modems from most of these guys, each telling a story of some level of disappointment.

    I also have bad experiences with the ISP you fell short of naming, though I would not have gone on a bashing spree.

    We will tell in time. We will see. If their target is those able and willing to spend that much, then maybe natural selection will give them a manageable number of subscribers that ensure the speeds are as per launch.

  12. I see all the comments were made 2months back, im just curious what all your comments are now

  13. Speeds mentioned above in South Africa or any other part of a Functioning World, wud mean Disastrous… Slow and Customers would be complaining like hell. But like we are, we are grateful that we can connect not matter what to the Internet, even though we are going into 2015.

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