Econet Wireless is the largest mobile network operator in Zimbabwe. One has to do something right to get to that position and for stretches, Econet was the obvious choice for Zimbabweans. However, lately, serving their almost 10 million active customers has been a challenge.
Last month, in February, Econet data services went down and Econet said that was due to their Core Network suffering degradation in processing data connections. It wasn’t the first time that happened.
From Econet’s latest trading report, we found out that there is overdue maintenance on that core network and other equipment. The forex challenges the country is facing have made it difficult for Econet to maintain its network, resulting in the terrible service that customers have been getting for some time now.
It appears Econet is hard at work to rectify that. They have partnered with Ericsson to modernise their network infrastructure. Could this mean they have secured the forex that’s going to be needed to engage Ericsson? We hope so.
Ericsson will help Econet upgrade its Radio Access Network (RAN) and mobile Core network. Maybe after these upgrades, we won’t get the “our Core Network suffered degradations” stories.
Apparently, these upgrades will also help Econet “deliver 5G to more locations.” I don’t know what they mean by ‘more locations’ because we don’t seem to be getting 5G anywhere in the country at the moment. I check this myself as well every time I pass by their publicised 5G locations. Ain’t nothing doing.
So maybe we are merely talking about the upgrades improving Econet’s capacity to deliver 5G. Not necessarily that it will mean more 5G for the masses in the near future.
In any case, my excitement for 5G is not that high, the tech is still in its teething phase and what we really need in Zimbabwe right now is 4G that we can count on. That would be more than enough. I’m not alone in thinking we should bench 5G for now and concentrate on 4G.
The good news is that the upgrades that Ericsson and Econet will be working on will improve everything – 2G, 3G and the star, 4G.
For the geeks out there. This is what the core network upgrade will entail,
As part of the mobile Core evolution, Ericsson will modernize the existing Evolved Packet Core (EPC) network to cloud-native dual-mode 5G Core, as well as upgrade the Unified Data Management (UDM) solution. The scope of the agreement with Econet also includes Ericsson’s cloud infrastructure solutions, the Circuit Switch Core modernization and the introduction of IP Multimedia System (IMS) for Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi).
For those of us that don’t understand geekspeak, the above simply means we can expect Econet’s network coverage and capacity to improve, leading to a better user experience. This better user experience includes new services, including the one we have complained about not having – VoLTE.
When it comes to the improved coverage and capacity they are saying they expect to improve efficiency to the tune of an average of 15% reduction in tower load. This will be huge for Econet who are having to run many towers on diesel power.
The improved efficiency should translate to massive cost savings which could allow them to fuel up the generators in neighbourhoods like mine that do not seem to get service when there are power cuts.
If you have complained, like we have, that you sometimes have to go outside to stay on LTE and not be downgraded to 3G then you will like hearing that these upgrades will improve LTE indoor penetration too. I for one would benefit from this. Thick walls have been doing me dirty.
We shall see where the stick and the snot apple fall when all is said and done.