Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates


ZOL drops internet bombshell

I remember the early days of email when I had a Yahoo and Hotmail account with a 5MB mailbox which I thought was totally great even though I was constantly deleting emails and when Gmail threw 1GB on the table that was the end of my Yahoo and Hotmail experience. I had the same sensation when I saw ZOL’s new unlimited/uncapped fibre packages:

ZOL Fibre Options

You can read the full text on ZOL’s website. The service for now is limited to Harare’s Milton Park and Belgravia suburbs. The installation cost is listed at $1,500 but ZOL is offering a promotional 85% discount!! For comparative purposes Tel-One’s Platinum ADSL which has a 2Mbps download speed and unlimited data is priced at $216 per month.

The notable feature of ZOL’s pricing is that it is not data but speed based. The customer therefore does not have to surf with the handbrake on, constantly worrying in the back of their mind about how much of their data ‘bundle’ is left. Surely this alone is a major benefit. Another interesting point is how ZOL have worded their maximum download speeds using the term “up to”. It’s not yet clear what this means and gives the ISP wiggle room if speeds don’t hit the top figure quoted. The ZOL offer comes hot on the heels of Utande’s launch of uMAX and the fact that this is fibre and not WiMAX also adds to the attractiveness of ZOL’s offer albeit only limited (for now) to 2 Harare suburbs. As we have noted before Zimbabwe’s broadband scene is marked by constantly changing price and product offerings (although most of the action is limited to Harare), ZOL have potentially dropped the proverbial game changer.

This will be true if ZOL manages to offer those maximum download speeds on a consistent basis and in turn they will meet first world broadband levels based on Ookla, Akamai and Cisco measures. Ookla for example gives the average broadband download speed in OECD countries at 13.25Mbps, but as with all averages you have to appreciate there will be significant variance.

So far ZOL executives have been rather coy about releasing details around the new offering, and it’s not yet clear whether this is a pilot or the beginning of a concerted rollout. The ZOL offer also brings to the fore the differing visions of Zimbabwe’s broadband future. Is it going to be wireless i.e. WiMAX, CDMA etc or will it be fibre? The argument in favour of wireless technologies hinges on lower network capital requirements vis à vis fibre. In our continuous dialogue with industry players the advocates for wireless doubt there is or will be sufficient demand let alone disposable income in Zimbabwe to justify the enormous capital outlays being witnessed in the fibre space. To illustrate this point in the United States the average broadband subscription costs less than half of 1 percent of per capita income and in India, Indonesia, and Egypt (which are closer to Zimbabwe’s peer group) the cost is 6 to 16 percent of income, and there’s less than one subscription for every 100 people.

In this regard it’s interesting that ZOL has its feet planted firmly in both the wireless and fibre camps. It will be interesting to see how the other players in the Internet space respond to the gauntlet that ZOL has thrown down. As for me I’m off to look for a house in Milton Park or Belgravia.

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32 thoughts on “ZOL drops internet bombshell

  1. I was doing some research and to my suprise it seems there are other areas covered. Pretty much the whole CBD is ready for the product – i was told i can get the service in Eastgate and as such my little shop will be running on this new high speed package. – I knew the Liquid ZOL thing would bring good things to all.

  2. is this a fibre to the home project? i have seen extensive digging in the area. if it is this is incredibly commendable.

  3. Let’s hope ZOL manages to give it’s clients at least 50% of the advertised speeds consistently, we don’t want another Powertel issue. So far TelOne has been spot on albeit with minor forgiveable hiccups.

  4. We have this up and running at our office in Milton Park. All I can say is WOW. I would be quite happy if we would have even a third of the speed we have now. I just hope they can maintain this though. Otherwise I highly recommend this product! Just wish they had coverage at my home in Avondale…hint hint@ZOL/Liquid…

    1. I was one of the first people to get Powertell dongles while they were in the testing phase and I was getting download speeds of around 300kb/s after six months I would be lucky to reach 50kb/s let’s hope once the clients start rolling in we don’t get a scenario where they’ll share 1 10MBps connection to 10 clients because ISP’s are sneaky like that. When you start maxing out the connection they phone you to tell you that you are abusing the connection because the other 9 clients will have started complaining.

      1. Look its the only way ISP’s make money, (go check out CIR pricing if thats what your looking for, trust me its not :D), The fact is contentions get a whole lot better when your talking about 10Mbps with 8+ users in a pool cause the plain fact is you can do a whole lot more, a whole lot quicker with 10Mbps than with 64Kbps, so that pool will more than likely be idle 50+ % of the time, and the scale is linear, 100Mbps, 100+ users, no problem, etc. Even if guys leave their torrents running all day all night, they eventually and inevitably run out of stuff to suck down, (series only get released once a week, and they will only take 5 or so minutes to come down on a 10 meg link). What i think will happen though is more and more streaming, but considering a sustained 480p stream can be maintained at around 500kbps, everyone is happy!

        1. I understand that contention ratios are the way to go, so for something like a 10mb/s connection a 1:5 ratio would be ideal. What Zimbabwe’s ISP’s then do is try and fit 100 people on that connection. The Suburbs where this ZOL service is launching is filled with embassies and other small businesses who’s internet usage might not go beyond checking mail. Most ISP’s will make sure that filters are in place to stop employees from visiting sites like Youtube and the like. On Zim ISP’s part, this is not to promote productivity but to hide the fact that the ratio’s are screwed up by making sure they keep any bandwidth demanding tasks at a minimum. That’s for the businesses though and frankly if I was an ISP I’d do the same. The problem comes when the same happens to domestic connections, you end up with something unusable when I found out that Powertel had allocated 3mb/s connection for each base station I realised the incompetence of Zim ISP’s and ZOL shouldn’t be threatened by U-Max those guys are lost.

    1. i think that may be to do with megabits p/s (Mbps) to kilobytes p/s (KBps) conversion… most ISP’s quote their speeds in either megabits p/s (Mbps) or kilobits p/s (Kbps), not megabytes p/s (MBps) and kilobytes p/s (KBps) as are commonly reported by applications…

  5. I like what all this is doing to prices! Competition is good! Now in other news, service quality is not 100% guaranteed…

  6. I do not know if we are reading the same or perhaps you already have further clarification from the ZOL, It would appear to me there is a cap on how much you can download, i.e. ” Max Down”. Reading from their website, they talk of 400 times faster than dial-up. A rough computation at Maximum dial-up rate of 56k gives us 22.6 Mb/s. If this is the case, be careful you may get to the peak in just 1 second. We wait to see, me I will stick with ADSL for now.

  7. ZOL is not after homes – they are after SOHOs, NGOs and Embassies in the Milton Park/Belgravia Area…But I always want to Challenge people who compare Zim to other African and Western countries. Honestly I do not see any real challenge with putting Fibre in every home in Zimbabwe

    1. That sounds like a grand idea and quite possible too although the ISP would have to get their payments in instalments probably as little as $10 per month for the next 5yrs for a total of around $600 just for the installation. The ISP’s can then charge around $20 for a 1mbps connection with no cap which is not a bad way future proof the country. That’s probably the only way people can take it up on a large scale and whichever telecoms company would do such an undertaking they’d have a monopoly they can keep for the next 50 or so years.

      1. $20 dollars for 1mb without a cap? financing $600 over 5 years? Quote hard seeing as 1mb cir WHOLESALES for about $700 in Zim, so what you planning on contending it at to get to $20? My take on all of this is ZOL are testing the waters and trying to shake up the market, but ultimately these prices are not sustainable so get it while you can

        1. My friend you represent everything that’s wrong with Zimbabwean businesses. They tend to focus on trying to milk a small group instead of taking the bullet for the set-up build a huge subscriber base and then milk that huge group for decades. That’s how the be big Telecom’s companies around the world do it. You get connected free of “charge” and you’ll pay for the set-up over a couple of months/years that’ll be stipulated in the contract.

          As for the monthly payments if you take ZOL’s current offering of 20mbps connection @ $260 you can easily divide that by 20 and monthly subs of $26 which you can lower to $20 to make the deal more attractive.

      2. Liquid are wholesaling 512k cir for $1000.00 per month. This has burst of up to 5mbps. An ISP outside Hre would not be able to resell this for less than $50 per month and be in business. Last-mile connectivity can only be wifi for rapid deployment but POTRAZ is stuck in the stone age when it comes to this.
        From Liquid’s bandwidth figures to the general public, the strategy appears to be one of elbowing every ISP out of business save for ZOL! How do you justify 15% ($149 p/m) with up to 10mbps compared to $1000 p/m with burst of only 5mbps? Perhaps ZOL/LIQUID could throw more light on this.

        1. Another thing to keep in mind looking at the ZOL BGP graphs, is that ZOL is getting 45% of their bandwidth from Liquid, and the other 45% from Atrato IP via Divi Networks. What this means if correct, is that they are getting virtual bandwidth at half the price of the current Liquid physical bandwidth, which since they are a part of must be dirt cheap.
          So they should be able to offer the best prices of any ISP in Zimbabwe. But will they do that, looking at the price of $150 for 10 MB, they are still milking us customers. Anyway lets see what the future holds.
          And all this is using seacom bandwidth. If deals are struck using WACS, pricing should be even cheaper, but will it be passed on to the customer ?
          With Telone and Yo Africa also working on running Fiber to the Home, it will be interesting to see what happens.
          Just my 2 cents

  8. Problem is that all these developments are limited to Harare. Development should be across the whole country.

    1. That’s the problem with this country. It makes one think everything revolves around Harare.

    2. My suggestion, as in the past, is that each city has its own IT/ISP company that provide internet access. That way development will move fast in this country and the country as a whole. Right now it means Harare must pay off for ZOL to move this to other cities. Which also means other cities must wait. In my model, cities would progress, develop, and advance at the same time. If Harare companies want to restrict themselves to Harare then that will be fine. Otherwise voting for DEVOLUTION is the way forward.

      1. well said. It is very funny that we always have to Harare for even the basic things.

  9. Are the Gloves coming off? Are we beginning to see competition in this sector? Only time will tell

  10. There is something wrong with this pricing, 1Mbps direct from Seacom and Essy costs $300 and if you take more bandwidth like 1Gb/s, they can decrease down to $60 per 1Mbps and $26 per 1Mbps in Zimbabwe sounds fictional even if the Seacom and Essy Fibers were passing via Zimbabwe

  11. These prices are too high, even for people outside Zimbabwe. Virgin Media in the UK offers 30Mb for $17.40, 60Mb for $21.27 and 100Mb for $26.89 which is quite reasonable i would say. The major problem with these companies is they claim to bring innovation and improve Zimbabwe but then cost too much and its not justified. They should first invest in the infrastructure then charge people reasonable prices to recoup their costs not try and make money without doing much investment. With the money they are charging, i could pay a monthly mortgage, not just to get 20Mb broadband which is most likely to be 13Mb real speeds.

    1. I beg to differ. Think about it this way, internet per Mbps is actually free if you peer with a tier one provider in Europe. The problem comes in when you want to get your internet from Europe to Zimbabwe. Liquid telecom uses undersea cables which have monthly rentals and then of course they have built a network which i can not imagine is something easy to do, look at other IAP’s who have failed to connect to an undersea cable by themselves due to this cost.

      undersea rental + Investment recovery + a small margin = Zimbabwe internet pricing

      investment recovery (existing infrastructure probably already recovered) + margin = virgin pricing.

  12. “As for me I’m off to look for a house in Milton Park or Belgravia.” – Don’t bother the link is absolute crap…..when it’s up.

  13. I have Zol fibre and discovered to my disappointment that their “fair usage policy” effectively does create caps. Now I have been “shaped down” and can’t even stream low quality youtube. Zol won’t be open about their quotas, which are alluded to in their fair usage policy. That’s like having speed traps on a road without a published speed limit! So for over $200 a month I now have a 256k connection at best when surfing international. I used to rave about Zol fibre to all my friends……….I won’t any more. Very very disappointing. I’ll be calling Yo Africa this morning 🙁

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