Review: ZOL Mobile WiMAX Internet

Posted by Read 18 Comments

Editor’s note: This review contribution on the new ZOL mobile WiMAX offering was provided through by Chenjerai Katanda, founder of Schools Sports Network, a website that covers Zimbabwean Schools Sports.

zol-ecoweb-dongleSometime in November of last year I caught wind of the news that ZOL was now offering Mobile WiMAX Dongles. Due to the nature of my work I was instantly drawn to it but I was doubtful as the deal sounded too good to be true – Uncapped mobile internet for $29 a month and the you get the dongle for free – and it was by word of mouth which can be very misleading at times.

zol-wimax-packageOn a visit to the ZOL’s offices at Eastgate got confirmation that the deal was indeed true so I didn’t waste any time and signed up. Having been already on ZOL WiMAX, I was aware of the fact that ZOL had offered different packages based on connection speed but upon enquiry I was told they could only bring the dongle to 1Mb/s for $59 instead of 512Kb/s at $29 per month. Without hesitation I went for the 1Mb/s connection. Account setup, dongle-in-hand, subscription paid equals unlimited ZOL mobile internet. Not so fast! They needed my laptop to setup the certificate on my laptop but I didn’t have it on me so I offered to get the certificate file on a thumb drive and set it up on my own then call for help if I encountered problems.

ecoweb-wimaxInstallation of the application was a breeze and I made sure the certificate file was in the right place but after all that I could not connect. It was on installation that I noticed that this was the same offering that entered the market some four years ago under Ecoweb. The dongle and its packaging having been rebranded with ZOL’s graphics but the application is still branded EcoWeb. Having struggled to connect I called ZOL’s help line, held the line for about three minutes before I got assistance. The installation file that came with the dongle turned out to be the problem and an email containing an .exe file from ZOL support shortly after the call solved the problem and I was connected.

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Since then I have been using this dongle when I am out and about covering school sports doing things like live blogging and video streaming. For the purposes of this review, I took the dongle on a spin this past week to come up with a solid verdict on how good this offering from ZOL really is. All of the tests were conducted in the Harare CBD and even though ZOL promises me a 1Mb/s download speed all tests conducted on Friday afternoon gave results upwards of 2Mb/s but there was a significant difference in latency when testing with local servers against overseas servers but that’s no surprise really.

speedtest-results-newyork

Test to a server in New York

speedtest-results-london

Test to a server in London

speedtest-results-beijing

Test to a server in China

Server Location Ping Download Upload
Harare / Dandemutande 93ms 2.96Mb/s 0.45Mb/s
Johannesburg / Cell C 71ms 2.44Mb/s 0.48Mb/s
London / London Web 251ms 3.16Mb/s 0.46Mb/s
New York / Towerstream 322ms 2.32Mb/s 0.39Mb/s
Beijing / Beijing Mobile Comms 452ms 2.87Mb/s 0.08Mb/s

 

As a number of people have disputed that speedtest.net speeds are not really what you get when doing real stuff on the internet I took the test further to figure out “real” download speeds. The first test was to download a Linux iso from the local mirror setup by ZOL then I performed the same download directly from the Ubuntu website. Surely the speeds were not the same as the ones achieved with speedtest.net but if you remember the speeds from the days when Econet first introduced mobile internet via GPRS you’ll agree that these speeds on-the-go are pretty impressive.

DownloadFromZolMirror

Test download from local ZOL mirror

The highest speed achieved using the local mirror was 423Kb/s and it hovered around 400Kb/s for the minute I let the download run. Surprisingly the download from Ubuntu’s server achieved higher speeds than the local download, hovering around 500Kb/s for the duration of the test which lasted two minutes. (See screenshot below) Please note that I ran the downloads in the free download manager from Orbit.

download-from-ubuntu

Test download from the Ubuntu servers

With the statistical stuff out of the way I headed to YouTube to continue the test. The connection fared well for all video qualities up to and including 720p but took a bit of buffering to play 1080p videos. Skype video call quality was decent while voice call quality was excellent.

For the general things that most people require internet for when on the move, the mobile dongle from ZOL will not disappoint, that is if you are within WiMAX coverage. I have not had much trouble with coverage around Harare though. I can confirm that I have used the dongle at Eaglesvale (close to Budiriro), St John’s College in Borrowdale (Reception here was great), Arundel in Mt Pleasant and Watershed College in Marondera, which was probably the slowest connection I got. However there are still some cold spots like St George’s College where I found the dongle unusable within the school grounds.

Taking into account the price tag on this one and what it can do it will be a no-brainer not to give this one a try but if you intend to use this as your sole home internet connection I’d advise you confirm with ZOL that you have good reception in your area.

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18 Comments

  1. cost says:

    hi wanted to ask how much does the dongle cost?

    1. Nya says:

      The dongle is free at the moment (on promotion)

  2. James Dube says:

    which areas are covered nationally?

    1. Chester Dombaz says:

      I have used this in Gweru and Byo. I used to hate it when ZOL would suspend my account and charge me for the time I was suspended, but it seems they now have that right. Honestly, I have no complaints. Works ok for my field work.

  3. macdchip says:

    After testing the Zol Wimax l dont buy this cheap marketing gimick!

    I would challenge Zol to provide Kabweza with the same kit for testing purposes.

    The only credit l can give Zol is that they didnt trouble me much on getting my refund.

  4. Muti says:

    So its true that Econet bought Zol.

    1. james says:

      ZOL is a ISP one of econets branches

      1. Muti says:

        Econet forgot to add ECO to EcoZol BRODBAND.

    2. Econet Owns Liquid Telecom, Liquid used to be known as EcoWeb – but they rebranded i’m guessing due to the focus on fibre and voip solutions etc etc. Liquid then bought Zol. and smartly over time they have been putting the specific products/offerings to where the most specific expertise for those offerings lie.

  5. tjmachinya says:

    does this thing work anywhere where there is econet coverage (eg in Gutu or Mushagashe) or it works only in the cities?

    1. tmoyo says:

      Wimax coverage is different from the GSM coverage which is nationalwide. Check with Econet which areas are covered.

  6. Fariemt65 says:

    is there good wimax coverage in Gweru for this?

  7. Ganda says:

    Shame i bought my on 30 November in masvingo when it was supposed to be free. I hope that money could pay some installments

    1. kuda says:

      anyone with the settings needed to connect to the INTERNET USING ZOL dongle

  8. kuda says:

    anyone with the settings needed to connect to the INTERNET USING ZOL dongle..

  9. justasking says:

    In your comparison between the results you got from the speedtest ping and actual downloads from the ZOL/Ubuntu mirrors, you mentioned that “As a number of people have disputed that speedtest.net speeds are not really what you get when doing real stuff on the internet, I took the test further to figure out “real” download speeds”, and then concluded ” Surely the speeds were not the same as the ones achieved with speedtest.net…you’ll agree that these speeds on-the-go are pretty impressive”.

    I think you/ ‘these people’ are making an error in reading the units of measurement on speedtest.net and that of the ZOL/Ubuntu mirror downloads. speedtest.net measures in BITS per second, while whatever download manager you used to download the .iso image is measuring in BYTES per second. There is a huge difference between 2MB/s (mega bytes per second) and 2Mb/s ( mega bits per second) – 8 bits make a byte, therefore a speedtest.net result of 2Mb/s (mega BITS, not BYTES) translates to roughly 250kB/s in download speed.

    Your speedtest.net ping test averaged 2.75Mb/s download which translates to 343.75kB/s (bytes per second). Your download manager had speeds of around 400kb/s per second (the two figures you have there are not an average of the entire download session i presume, which if you did, would give you a different result altogether) which means the speedtest.net reading is fairly accurate.

    In conclusion, make sure you are reading the units of measurement right, because you simply add to the confusion that exists between bits and bytes.

    Just saying.

  10. yambai saramunda says:

    why is it im still owing you while im not using your service

  11. terry says:

    i want to get connected to Zol internet ………what should l do .I am in gweru township currently and what are the cost ?

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