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Telecel to introduce LTE in 2016, downplays the service’s immediate relevance in Zim

Angeline Vere, the CEO of Telecel Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, we’ve had LTE, or rather, patches of it since 2013. Econet took the first plunge and started extolling the virtues of  the high-speed data communication standard back when most subscribers were still getting warmed up to the idea of mobile broadband.

Over the past month, that picture has changed dramatically. Econet finally enabled LTE for mobile phones and NetOne, the government’s own mobile network operator (MNO) has taken the lead with a more ambitious and well-funded rollout of LTE.

But where’s Telecel in all this?

According to Angeline Vere, the MNO’s CEO, Telecel has been piloting LTE in parts of Zimbabwe and will be activating it in the first part of 2016.  This will likely impress Telecel Broadband subscribers that are keen on experiencing super fast mobile connectivity.

On why Telecel has taken time to respond to the moves being made by its competitors by activating LTE, even for limited number of areas, Vere pointed out that right now, the return on investment for LTE in Zimbabwe doesn’t warrant a huge rollout.

She highlighted constraints like the limited national smartphone penetration (it’s been hovering around 20% for a while) and the fact that LTE brings with it the added challenge of providing subscribers with LTE enabled devices which, for the greater part, haven’t been priced for emerging markets like Zimbabwe.

Vere’s concerns regarding LTE mirror those that have been raised by most observers whenever the Zimbabwean LTE conversation is brought up. This was never the case when Econet had a limited investment in LTE. The Econet strategy at the time made sense for anyone looking at the facts on the ground.

The fact that NetOne poured in a substantial amount of money into LTE might have changed the noise around this type of service, but it doesn’t answer a lot of questions about the establishment of LTE or its feasibility in Zimbabwe.

How will these LTE-enabled devices be introduced en masse to Zimbabwean subscribers?

How will any such ambitious device program dovetail with the government’s 25% duty on devices that was introduced last year?

How will any investment be recouped without any significant adjustment being made to the cost of mobile data, something that the struggling mobile operators will fight tooth and nail to prevent?

While all these issues might best be left to the market forces to decide the future of LTE, Telecel’s LTE plan for the immediate and long term is clear.

Vere has highlighted that right now they are working on consolidating 2G and 3G service for the existing and potential Telecel Broadband subscriber base. This means improving the 2G and 3G coverage and getting more users to access data services, even at a basic level.

There is also a device distribution strategy that is being explored which involves bulk device acquisition. If successful, it will rope in Vimpelcom, Telecel’s majority shareholder and one of the largest telecoms operators in the world and through this relationship, Telecel Zimbabwe will be tapping into the group’s purchasing scheme.

Other than that, it would seem that for now, LTE isn’t a huge deal for Telecel. The operator probably wants to amplify the user experience on its network without scrambling for the latest fad that doesn’t register with its subscribers.

Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

23 thoughts on “Telecel to introduce LTE in 2016, downplays the service’s immediate relevance in Zim

  1. Its funny how these econet and net one are making noise about LTE when their networks usually dont offer the upper end of 3g speeds most of the day. besides who wants to by a daily bundle for $1 so that it dissapears in a mmatter of seconds. the pricing issue is the first consideration. If the majority of the market is complaining about the depletion of the little mobile data that they have, i doubt anyone is concerned about the crazy insane LTE speeds. Give me a reliable 2mbps connection on a 3G network and ill be happy with the little data that I can afford.

  2. And is Telecel offering reliable 3G or even 2G? Why not let those who want to experience true broadband speeds get it from 4G LTE. We should not be left out because we feel we are not ready for it, infact the whole essence of LTE is to improve on the current broadband that we have on 3G.

  3. until you tell us what you did with that LTE sim from not really reading your articles.

    1. *until you tell us what you did with that LTE sim from Net*One not really reading your articles… More so, you know econet is not doing 4g calls. rather switching them, you could mention that and maybe do a short one on VoLTE and the difference between an IP network and regular Circuit switched. just saying

        1. macd you can not run calls on LTE unless you have VoLTE so what happens when an sms is coming in or a call is coming in on Econet is is its switched and drops to 3g/2g.

  4. Telecel should watch what they say about mobile devices with LTE being limited, what is the figure they are looking for that would justify a move toward LTE. A lot of people are using LTE capable device and some of the owners don’t even know it, the Telecel CEO could be one of them.
    Besides all the MNOs are probably running circuit switched networks like #fourwallsinaroom just said, and they still want to milk that investment dry before they invest in the all IP networks which would be a problem for the MNOs because the consumer wants more Data, more Speed for less Cost to what it is today.
    Maybe it is time for a real fourth player (MNO) in the game.
    What flavour of 3G does Telecel even have their data connections are deplorable, and I’m talking about in the city centres.

  5. “a lot of people are using LTE capable devices” not in the Zim i know, you must be dreaming

      1. Thats you alone my friend. I am a mid earning techy and only upgraded my phone to lte one a month ago! So what more to other folks to to mention rural ones! To bring this into perpective, samsunga pocket, young s2, and may of their tabs are on lte!

  6. iwe Angeline Vere kana usina 4G enabled device usafunga kuti isu hatina, ko iyo 4g yacho inodya sadza here, ingosungira uone kuti haishandiswe here.

  7. Abt 80% of data enabled phones in zim a chinese phones, ashas, entry level samsungs, lumias, htc etc, so ths thing of saying many zimbabweans a usin LTE enabled devices z not true. Vere z ryt, thse MNO ought to improve their 2G n 3G netwrks coz they suck, especially econet

    1. Pareto Rule: The 20% of those who own LTE enabled devices is too big a market to ignore if you are wisey

  8. sony makes a few 4g phones, i saw an lte enabled windows phone for less than 200. samsung has plenty in the 120-200 region.
    these phones are there. the problem is telecel is over subscribed on data its really bad even when u have a 3g signal the speeds to international sites are pathetic.

  9. Telecel zimbabwe is very cruel to its employees.It sent away 150 employees on 3 months notice and the employees have since approached the courts to seek for damages .Telecel has been ignoring their letters since the ammendment came into effect.Whatever they do is all fake.

  10. The other thing on one seems to have bothered to mention is how Econet through ZOL/Liquid are spreading wifi throughout the inner cities, this could begin a whole other revolution with Wifi-calling which in some ways LTE would still need to play catch up on in terms of speed and those with weak 3G could make their calls on the stronger wifi network. Well for those with feature/smart phones at least.
    Telecel murikuchema ne LTE musatimagona 3G yacho, hamusati matanga. What plans do you have to compete with the network of tomorrow, instead always trying to play catch up!!!!

    1. I will never go anywhere near anything with Econet/Zol wifi tag on it, rubbish. They have overtaken Powertel by miles for poor services and clueless tech support.

  11. You all talking about devices .How many of you can afford lte internet if its available. Don’t complain when your phone finishes $10 airtime in 30min and say MNO are now stealing your money. Most people still cant even afford 3g at moment due to current economic liquidity

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