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An Adventure With Zimbabwe’s Mobile Service Providers

Telecel, Econet, NetOne POTRAZ Report subscribers

A lot of you have probably stuck to one service provider since you had your first phone. Me well not so much. My adventure with Zimbabwe MNOs has seen me use all of the big 3 till I settled for…Okay I won’t spoil it in the first paragraph. Let’s start from the beginning.

Econet, NetOne, Telecel, MNO Zimabawe, Mobile Network Operators Zimbabwe, POTRAZ

I had my first ever mobile phone in the year 2010 and at the time I was still in form 3. (Kids of nowadays will never know). I had received 36 bucks from my dad and it was enough to buy a 35 dollar Nokia Knockoff with a dollar to spare.

At the time, lines were still not less than a dollar and I really wanted an Econet line. Unfortunately it was $2 and so I settled for what at the time was the next best option. A Telecel line. Yes it was a dollar and here is why it was 2nd best value then.

It had some fantastic promotions for example this segment on radio every week day around 5pm. The presenter on StarFM would have about 5 bucks worth of recharge cards and would be announcing the digits while a decent number of Telecel subscribers, me included, would try to have the fastest fingers to key in the recharge pin and get some free airtime. Safe to say not one day did I win that one but it was fun anyway.

The phone I had was a knockoff and it wouldn’t connect to the internet. Moreover I had never used mobile internet so it really was no big deal. We called and texted 9 years ago.

I was good for a while till 2011 when Econet launched EcoCash with…wait for it…Free airtime to anyone who signed up! Yes I was a bit of a sucker for freebies back then. I could afford buying the line now and so I rushed to buy. I signed up for EcoCash and hello free airtime.

Econet router MiFi Data social media sms bundle prices price

The experience felt the same as on Telecel and very very few of my friends actually had phones so I really didn’t feel anything when I moved to Econet. I mean I didn’t experience mobile internet till 2014 and I still had a Nokia Knockoff.

Speaking of 2014, Econet again decided to make life a bit interesting. They introduced Unlimited WhatsApp bundles. They were really unlimited too. You now didn’t have data anxiety at all. Everything was on auto-download. It was however what I feel was the major contributor to the death of Mxit. (Mxit was once one of the world’s most popular chat apps sharing the top spot with BBM(Blackberry Messenger) and Nokia Ovi. There were also apps like Nimbuzz and Viber that had some potential but were crippled by the WhatsApp and Facebook bundle before they could gain traction. Quick history lesson for my fellow generation Z readers.)

Yes Econet had flawlessly succeeded with keeping their line in my phone (which was now the infamous Nokia X2) and the hits just kept on coming. They then launched Unlimited Opera Mini bundles and made access to Twitter FREE on their network. I will confess. That is the same year my Twitter account was created. @edwinchabuka3 if you wanna hang out.

So let me lay it down for you. On Econet I had Unlimited browsing thanks to Opera bundles, Unlimited social media thanks to Facebook and WhatsApp bundles plus zero rated access to Twitter. These guys were on a roll…till in 2015 they introduced a limit on how unlimited the unlimited bundles were, increased prices and introduced lite packages that had a cap far below my now set usage pattern.

(Just to give a bit of context of my usage patterns, I had…and still have the Econet Mobile WiFi dongle. I would take turns with my buddies to buy Opera bundles in college then use it as our own personal WiFi hotspot to do some research or download videos or even run updates on our PC’s thanks to an app called Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield at that time took advantage of the vulnerability in the Econet network where if there was any bit of internet trickling in let’s say via a bundle, it would use that bundle to grant you access to the whole internet.)

Econet, Econet mobile Wifi, Econet data bundles, price, Internet Speeds, SpeedChecker

That said the revision was a tough one to bear and in 2015 I pulled out my dollar and went over to NetOne. NetOne at the time was still using the real definition of unlimited on their WhatsApp and Facebook bundles. Their bundles were a couple of cents cheaper too. It was like the old Econet and I grew very fond of it. Little did I know I was going to enjoy the experience even more.

NetOne line and sim card NetOne data bundles price prices tariffs bundle

Hello Onefusion! Yes these guys sort of heard my plight or at least I hope that’s what happened. See in 2016 I was finishing up with college and was now understanding how useful the real internet is. Social media bundles started making less sense as my appetite for geeky knowledge ballooned at quite an unprecedented rate. I needed MORE data. I still do need more data.

(More context. All my life I was a car geek. I only started researching on gadgets in 2015 and I was only competent in gadget geek speak in 2016. It is also the year I learnt that there is a reason why phones are region specific as my LG G4 could get access to LTE on Econet but not on NetOne. It was an issue with the LTE frequency bands supported by the LG.)

OneFusion was the stuff. When it launched I literally could last a whole month with the $5 package. Easily. With some WhatsApp and SMSs to spare. For a kid fresh out of college balling on the couch it was the perfect package.

Up until this day, NetOne is my main line for everything except mobile money. Econet is there for the mobile money. Also as painful as it is to say. The network that welcomed me to the digital age is no longer part of my life. Oh and the OneFusion 10 now lasts me a max of 3 weeks. Just had to put it out there I know i’m not crying alone.

Talk about zero loyalty to a service provider but quite an adventure. I would love to also hear your Zimbabwean Service Provider Story.

Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

5 thoughts on “An Adventure With Zimbabwe’s Mobile Service Providers

  1. All the service providers are using manipulations in the form of low prices and promotions. They are really not giving the consumer a why reason they are in business. Just the what of service delivery. No tangible innovation or value creation benefit

  2. I agree with the above comment. Consumers really don’t choose a network, they choose what’s cheapest. If there was true service provision you’d actually talk of tangible benefits as opposed to bundles. In other countries you can get a permanent family plan, the devices can be bought from the MNO at reasonable prices and you swap and top when you want to change phones. Benefits go beyond phoning, such a loyalty points usable at partner stores.

  3. I have never owned a telecel line so save for that part i can totally agree with the whole article. Just to add, there is also that loyalty to the phone number and not the subscriber and thats probably why i still have my “main line” – which i really dont use anyway. Thanks to dual sim phones i can have the data line and the other line and enjoy the best of both worlds.

  4. Thanks to econet’s incompetent internet service provision, I am now a two-phone person and the main reason for that is ecocash and one fusion. In this day and age, having a single line is simply not sustainanble unless u make more money than u can spend. Econet is usually the first one to do something amazing but before you know it they ruin the whole experience by hiking up the price. I think it is safe to say that most people, like me, only have the econet line primarily for ecocash. If econet “took it back to the beach” they would own the whole industry. I’d argue that other MNOs should further establish the financial services but econet has such a dominance in that department.

  5. I’ve had my 0736… from 2012, and I’m not planning on ditching it any time soon. Call me wierd, but I have a “foolish” attachment to telecel, my first love. However, I own an econet line, mainly for Ecocash and calls in areas where telecel reception is poor, which lives in my Sim 2 slot. Needless to say, I also own a Netone line, which stays safely tucked away in my wallet. I used One Fusion, for a while, until main chick released MegaBoost and I, in an instant, returned to telecel. I’m also paranoid to an extent of also owning Africom and Powertel sim cards….well, my phone supports CDMA, so why not. However, telecel is still my “main line”, not because they are competent or better than everyone else, but simply because I chose to be loyal to them, despite all their flaws.

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