Have you ever experienced something so spectacular your breath is literally taken away? However as you enjoy the marvel you kind of pause for a moment and the wonder is replaced by despair and anger. Despair and anger because in that moment you realize that you will have to go back to your ordinary and inferior life when the last firework pops.
It is human nature to not want to regress in lifestyle and experience. Once you have lived the pizza life, maize meal infused pot-bread loses its appeal. It is the reason some turn to crime and prostitution to try to maintain a lifestyle.
If you live in Harare for too long you tend to forget that the experiences you get there are not the same as everyone else’s in the country. I got reminded of that fact when I traveled outside Harare this last festive season.
At the place where I was staying, there is Telone ADSL but there were problems with the router which are yet to be resolved and so I had to rely on mobile internet. I happen to have an Econet line and I thought, surely It’ll be just like using ZOL Fibre because there was 4G/LTE coverage in that place.
Now first off before you judge, I’m not one of those people who are always on their phones even when visiting with the folks but thing is I had to work. In this job of ours the internet is the biggest prerequisite to work and so I bought myself a data bundle, switched the mobile hotspot on and tethered the laptop.
I tried logging into the Techzim website to get to work and I got the dinosaur, you know the one Chrome displays when you are not connected to the internet. What? So I played a few games waiting for the LTE to warm up but after a few minutes of nothing I checked the phone to see whether I was getting any service.
I got the shock of my life when I saw an ’E’ staring at me. The E which represents EDGE, or 2G. Wait a minute! The place where I was is a four minute walk away from the town centre and yet I was getting 2G. It would flash LTE for like 30 seconds, fall to H+ (3G) then to 2G.
I thought it was some kind of fault or maintenance work being carried out which would explain that kind of erratic service. I asked around and folks were like, ‘oh that’s how it is 365 days a year, get used to it.’
When connected to the 2G network, which is like 90% of the time, you get speeds so slow it’s immoral to call them speeds. I’m talking a minute to load a simple website kind of slow.
With speeds that slow I had to resort to writing in Word and sending the documents to a colleague in Harare and have him publish on my behalf. Now when I say I was getting slow speeds I mean it. When I tried sending the documents, 15kb word documents by the way, email was not even an option. It had to be WhatsApp.
Would you believe that I was sitting there for minutes trying to send a word document and failing. A 15kb document. Don’t know how many times I had to retry until a document was finally sent and that would only happen when I got my 30 second allocation of LTE.
That is no way to live. It is frustrating to hear that it has been like that for years and folks say Econet actually is the best option in that place. I’ve been going to that place every festive season for the past decade but usually ignored my phone as I just hung out with family so that’s why I never noticed.
The experience has made it hard for me to be excited about the 3G coverage stats. It’s not about 3G being available in an area because it’s useless if one doesn’t get reliable service. If I was in a town where LTE is available and yet I got that kind of terrible experience, what about 3G in a rural settlement.
Talking about 3G, that seems to be the solution over there. I set my phone to only use 3G and not choose automatically from the 3 options and I must say, the experience was much better. It is not quite like I’m used to in Harare but documents were flying off in just one try, sometimes. I still got ‘no network connection’ every few minutes or so but there was a huge difference in the experience.
Before you go off, that doesn’t happen when in Harare, the Marlborough area at least. I used the same phone and line I use in Harare which I never have to restrict to 3G or 4G so it cannot be the phone. Since returning to Harare the problem disappeared.
I do not know what needs to be done to fix this kind of thing but it needs to be fixed like yesterday.
To my fellow non-Hararians, what kind of mobile internet experience are you getting? Is it as terrible as the one I got? Let us know in the comments below.