Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile network operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has announced that you can now buy a 5G router from its stores nationwide. The announcement was made on the company’s Facebook page and follows the company’s recent launch of 5G in Victoria Falls as well as installations in Harare and Bulawayo.
According to the promotional material, Econet’s 5G router can support up to 32 devices, is suitable for those who want to use it for home or office, and users can connect to it via Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable. The new 5G router from Econet is also compatible with 4G (and can downgrade to 3G) so if your area doesn’t have 5G you can still use it for the lower spectrum until the base stations rollout comes your way.
Econet’s 5G router is more expensive than a fibre installation
The speeds promised by 5G are pretty impressive. At the demonstration Econet held in Harare earlier this year it clocked speeds exceeding 1Gbps. Whether those speeds can be held over when there are more people on a single base station is another matter.
Moreover, there aren’t that many 5G base stations out there in Zimbabwe. The ones we know of are, the one at Avondale shopping centre in Harare and six in Bulawayo, plus the new installation in Victoria Falls. This complicates things a bit because 5G has a very short effective radius. This means that you’ll need to be closer to a base station for you to get the full benefits of the speeds and low latency.
So we would need more base stations for this to make sense for the 5G use case. For those who want to future-proof their MiFi situation, there are two variants of the 5G routers from Econet. The first is an outdoor router which is going for ZWL$580,193 (approx US$1,555 at the auction-rate) and there is an Indoor one that is going for ZWL$236,493 (approx US$634 at the auction-rate). When I contacted Econet customer support, there were no installation costs gazetted for the outdoor variant of the router.
Those are some seriously eye-watering prices considering that a fibre installation costs a fraction of that and cheaper still is a conventional LTE connection, which if you choose Utande, has a setup cost of US$100.
Personally, I don’t see the need for such an investment in a technology that is not widespread. It might make more sense for people and businesses who are close to the base stations but for the rest of us, it might be worth waiting for more players to join in and force prices down.
I’m really curious to hear what you think, are you game for Econet’s 5G router, or you’re like me and that’s a step too far in terms of price?