After almost a year of trials, Econet to now launch offloading Wi-Fi Zones

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar
Econet Zone


Remember the Econet Wi-Fi pilot we reported on several months ago? Sources at the company tell us the product is ready for launch now and that it will be officially unveiled this week. The name of the product is called Econet Zone (image above) and, as we reported back in may last year, it’s meant to ease congestion on the mobile broadband network (3G, Edge GPRS etc..). Such a system is called Mobile data offloading, or just Wi-Fi offloading.

How it will work?
This is not an independent Wi-Fi service. It’s for Econet subscribers. To access the service subscribers will have to connect (or automatically connect) to an Econet Zone. They will then get a password by submitting their phone number via a web page form, after which they enter the password and start browsing. See below:

Econet Zone


How many hotspots are we talking?
At least 75 is what we counted in an app we downloaded. You can find the app here or in the play store.

Data Tariffs (price)
From what we see in the app, subscribers will be charged the same as they would on an ordinary 3G connection. Would have been great ofcourse to get some discount for helping take some load off their mobile network…

So why use it?
Incentive to use it is just speed more than anything else. So say you’re at Avondale and 3G there is slow, you then switch to the Wi-Fi network (which is probably powered by a fibre backbone) and experience much better internet.

Isn’t faster internet what 4G LTE is supposed to give us?
Well, no. LTE is proving more complicated and costly that Econet hasn’t done much on that front beyond the  the UNWTO show of two years ago. It’s still available only via a 4G  dongle and limited in coverage which makes it far from convenient to use.

Why did this take so long?
We have no idea really. Our guess is integrating WiFi hotspots to a cellular network so billing is seamless and predictable enough to not have the “my data vanished” issues, is no simple task.

Does Econet have a Wi-Fi license
We’re just putting this here as a colleague asked the question earlier today. First, there’s no such a license, but it’s generally something that ISPs like ZOL and YoAfrica have been doing these past several years. We don’t think Econet will have an issue with this really. Remember the Econet Group has an IAP license through Liquid Zimbabwe, so they are as licensed as it can get. But even if they didn’t have Liquid, they recently paid $137.5 million for a license whose goal posts may be shifted this year. Who and why would anyone deny them some leg room for a grey area they venture into?

What do we think?
We love the service. Like we said though, a discount on the Wi-Fi data would be even better but from a making the 3G more less congested as well as having an alternative when in an area they have a hotspot, it’sa brilliant product. Something tells me people that connect to very fast hotspots will think their data’s being stolen…



  1. Mavhuto

    I really like this development. However, is these hotspots also available in Mutare ? Your map didn’t show anything for Mutare,not even 4G.

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      My guess is if it’s not there on the map then there are no hotspots there.

  2. fourwallsinaroom

    According to Potraz what is the maximum transmit power permitted for a Hotspot? I remember reading on this a long time ago before the potraz site was updated. I am sure there are some legalities involved here. Also what is the current status on ISM bands.

  3. G

    typo They will then get a password by submitted their phone number via a web page form. – See more at:

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      fixed. thanks a mil

  4. tinashe

    the transmit power for zim i think its 9dbm

  5. chandida

    there is a need of vigilance when it comes to data usage. some phones distinguish between wifi and 3G, thereby allowing certain apps to update / download stuff when connected to wifi. i see a few individuals getting caught out on this one.

    1. Braddock

      Yes i agree with you there, my phone for example starts auto-updates once its connected to wifi, and some of the apps i have, dont allow turning off of this feature.

  6. Life Saver

    Possible life saver for blackberry users.

    1. Ashley Young

      Holy cow! do those still exist?

  7. Sekuru Kaguvi

    Another one from Econet. It appears the only company capable of innovating or introducing a new product is Econet or part of the Econet group. Its just a sentiment I’ve picked up along the way reading these posts. Is it me or thats generally the trend?

    1. admire

      its not innovation its copy and paste

      1. Hehe

        Means other networks are so slow they can’t copy and paste

      2. Telstar

        i take it u do not understand what innovation is??? Anyway there is an element of copy and paste everywhere even gvts do that so in a way if you are copying the right recipe good for you customers will flock to you…. Telecel and NetOne are free to choose other innovative services to copy paste on their networks

        1. Ini

          Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.

          1. Eddie

            thank goodness none of you are my lecturers

  8. fourwallsinaroom

    LSM looks like some ZOL spot’s are also carrying the econet wifi under a different SSID. For instance Eastgate has ZOLSPOT and Econet, all coming from the same device. If this is indeed the case that means other ZOL spots will likely carry this possibly bringing the number to over 150. Most of these sites are using the Wavion base station which allows I think 8+ SSID’s along with different protocols for authentication

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      Yeah… does look that way. Thanks for the info dude.

    2. Anthony Somerset

      Sorry Guys its not Wavion – its based on Ruckus Wireless – Wavion is some of the older ZOLspot gear 90% of which is migrated to Ruckus now

      1. fourwallsinaroom

        Thanks for the update. I had mentioned Wavion on two fronts, the antenna for instance at Borrowdale village, and secondly i recently got a proposal citing wavion equipment.

        That said it still looks like the same hardware is shared for both ZOL spot and Econet Wifi Zones in some places.

        1. fourwallsinaroom

          And by shared hardware i mean ruckus. Was just reading on their website and it looks like 3g/4g offload is one of their specialities.

    3. Telstar

      I think those hotspots are based on Ruckus Smart Access Management (SAM) Technology. Was engineer for a company that ran something Similar out here. Wonderfull technology. We got rid of Wavion and implemented Ruckus SAM and went further to monetise. In short period of time the platform had paid for itself

  9. KAT

    This is another way for econet to make extra profit. I’m really sure it costs much less to deliver data via Wi-Fi than 3g & the like. That speed will kill you because most smartphones use Wi-Fi data differently cause it’s generally expected to be free or much cheaper & uncapped. Basically your phone apps will start downloading & uploading @ will, ka bundle ikako will simply melt away. I donno but I don’t see much benefit to this to even justify the login process.

  10. Anonymous

    Why when at a number of places you can access Zol for free?

  11. fourwallsinaroom

    If Econet wanted to do something decent. They would give every subscriber a corresponding VOIP number and allow us to use their WiFI to make VOIP calls at a discount where possible.

  12. Ini

    Its free until the 28 Jan………..

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      Can anyone confirm that its free? Or have you tried it personally?

      1. Ini

        You need confirmation for that??? Check the Econet Facebook page.

        1. fourwallsinaroom

          Had not seen the facebook page. Thanks for that. Movie torrents here I come. Get password on my phone, use my laptop wifi to connect with phone number and password and hey presto! will report back with a speed test shortly.

  13. Nya B

    I dont think one needs a licensce to offer wifi hotspots. David Behr once said if licences are to be issued then almost everyone with a laptop or smart phone would need such a licence as these items can be turned into hotspots. The only issue Econet would have is the distance of their wifi equipment will have to cover. If they exceed more than 50 metres from the hotspot I think potraz might raise issues but right now with some wifi equiment reaching distances of 1km there might be renewed interest on wifi

  14. Benedict

    They need to adjust the rates for bigger interface browsing. Mobile rates may be very expensive on devices with a bigger interface like desktops.

  15. Observer

    Where is Telecel and Netone?

    1. Anthony Somerset

      It’s an econet product why should the support a competitors subscribers when the key aim of the service is to improve data service for there own subscribers?

      1. Observer

        I am not saying they should, all I am saying is where are their offerings? why are they leaving Econet to rule the roost?

  16. fourwallsinaroom

    Just downloaded the iOS config file and parsing through it shows the following.

    Please install this ‘token’ in order to allow automatic and secure connection to the Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Hotspots. Data charges will go to your existing 3G data account, at discounted rates. Please visit Econet website for details. – What??? A discount for iOS users? – OPENVPN for iOS? What about android also authentication done via zol?
    Interesting. comments please people

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      never mind there is an android app as well. Will need to check it out and provide feedback

    2. fourwallsinaroom

      With reference to above. The config file is nothing spectacular. See screen shot of settings below.

  17. fourwallsinaroom

    Econet is the parent company here and ZOL is a subsidiary of Liquid and as such is owned by econet. No secrets there.

    Now looking at the locations where WiFi is available as a ZOL spot I conlcuded the following

    12Mos Subscription
    ZOL 2.5GB a month – $45 Econet 2.5GB $50
    ZOl 1GB a month – $20 Econet 1GB $35
    ZOL 300MB a month $10 – Econet 200MB $10
    ZOL 100MB a month $4.17 – Econet 80MB $5

    or if you do scratch cards

    ZOL 100MB $5.00 or Econet 80MB
    ZOL 225MB $10.00 or Econet 200MB
    ZOL 500MB $20.00 or Econet 500MB
    ZOL 1GB $35.00 or Econet 1GB

    ZOL 2GB $60.00 or Econet 2X 1GB = $70
    ZOL 4GB $100.00 or Econet 1X2.5GB, 1X1GB AND 1X500MB = $105

    It is clear that the ZOL spot is cheaper especially given that you would not spend as much time using them. (also remember ZOL spots are free at the moment)

    Why then would I use Econet offload ZONES? Yes it may be penny pinching, but I am just curious why these prices would not be inline?

  18. Peter

    hehehe, if you live in the ‘ghetto’ i.e most western suburbs of Harare you in for a shock ,this service is primarily available in the cbd and better parts of the northern suburbs, well at least for now ,check their map on the econet website,,,,,,, isn’t it great to be rich!

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