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Telecel Zimbabwe’s Board Suspends Acting Chairperson, Jane Mutasa

Telecel Zimbabwe’s board of directors has announced that its acting chairperson, Jane Mutasa, has been suspended from the board to enable her to defend herself against the criminal charges that have been preferred against her in Zimbabwe.

The following statement was issued after a board meeting that took place today:

“At the extraordinary board meeting of the Board of Telecel Zimbabwe, held on March 19, 2010, the directors resolved to suspend Mrs Mutasa as director of the company to afford her an opportunity to defend herself against the charges that have been preferred against her by the state following allegations of fraud brought to the police by the company.


Pastel Software Zimbabwe Announces Launch Of New Evolution Modules

Pastel Software Zimbabwe, the official Sage Pastel distributor in Zimbabwe, has revealed plans to launch new Pastel Evolution point of sale and branch synchronisation add-on modules in June this year. This will be the first time these modules have been available in Zimbabwe.

Experts from Sage Pastel International’s headquarters in South Africa will present, explain and demonstrate the new modules on June 7 and 8.

Pastel Software Zimbabwe runs as a division of Chips Computing Services and distributes Pastel software directly and through a network of local dealers. It is the only Platinum Certified Sage Pastel Partner in the country. Sage Pastel grades its business partners as Silver, Gold and Platinum, with Platinum being the highest grade. The only other partner in Zimbabwe, Omni Africa, is a certified Gold Business Partner.


Econet Slashes Off-Peak Calling Rates To 10 cents

Ok. The good news first: Starting this week, Econet has slashed its off-peak calling rates to just 10 cents. Off-peak here refers to 10PM to 6AM everyday.

The not so good news:…


Egypt, South Africa And Nigeria Account For More Than 80% Of Google Code Jam Africa Qualifying Contestants

The first round of the Google Code Jam Africa 2010 is over. Of the 54 countries in Africa, only 18 made it through the qualification round of Code Jam Africa 2010 and of these, only 3 countries accounted for more than 80% of the contestants; Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria. This is despite there being no country specific entry restrictions (well, save for Internet connectivity).

An indication of the countries with super brain developers? Or maybe that of those with interest in software development? Maybe of those that knew about the contests?


A Google Map of ZOL Wi-Fi Hotspots in Harare

We thought we’d do a map of all the Wi-Fi hotspots in Zimbabwe to help people locate the nearest hotspot from any location. We started with the ISP that has a good number of them dotted across the country, ZOL. Because of that, this is by no means exhaustive.

There are more hotspots in Zimbabwe and if you know any we didnt include here, please just tell use where it is and we’ll put a marker on it. Better still, open the map in Google Maps, login with you Google account and make the changes yourself! Once we have enough hotspots from different providers we’l drop the ZOL title and pin the ZOL tag to specific hotspots.

We hope it helps you find a hot spot near you!


Econet Asks: Should We Have Waited Until We Could Give Everyone 3G Or We Did The Right Thing To Launch And Sort Out Issues Later?

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is among the few companies in Zimbabwe to embrace online social media. The company’s 3G Facebook page has about a thousand fans and it gets updated several times a week.

For subscribers, this provides an always available face of the company on the Internet. You can have conversation with an Econet techie right there, and he (or she hey) speaks informally and is frank on the issues that matter to subscribers. The kind of way you’d converse with a real person in real life. This as opposed to the call center agents that always make me feel handled. And for Econet, this is a great way to get honest feedback from customers.


Weekly Roundup – 5 March 2010

Econet held a breakfast meeting today to give an update to stakeholders on the network upgrade project that has been taking place since last year. We’ll give you an update of the discussions held once we have something.


An Overview Of Zimbabwe’s Telecommunications – POTRAZ Presentation Download

We got this presentation here from a function we attended last week. The presentation was made by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and generally covers the current state of telecoms industry in Zimbabwe. Coming from them, we’re sure it’s pretty accurate.


Why Google Produces The Most Relevant Search Results

Like many people, for a long time now, Google has been my default search engine. This default state of my online experience makes it easy to forget that there are other options out there; that I could look at the web through a different set of lenses. And that indeed, there might actually be a better experience elsewhere.

I don’t want to use Google just because everyone likes it, so every now and again I like to sample the other popular search engines of the day. The one thing that has made me stick with Google for the past 5 years stills stands out; the priority given to relevant local results.


Skype Comes To Nokia Smartphones

Earlier today, the mobile phone giant, Nokia announced that Skype for it’s Symbian smartphones is now available for free download in its OVI store. Mobile users can now use 3G or Wi-Fi connections to call each other for ‘free’ without needing to route the call through mobile operators.

This is a big game changer for mobile operators. Charging subscribers for call minutes is getting harder and harder to justify and this just another nail in the regular calls’ coffin.

Econet though seems to have seen this coming. It has been heavily investing in reinventing itself into a data career (aka ISP). Just last week, it launched it’s fibre network project and promised to make it available to other service providers in the future. Econet founder, Strive Masiyiwa, sums it up in the YouTube video – “As an operator our basic responsiblity and task, is build a network and to provide coverage and connectivity to as many people as possible. That is the instruction we give to our executives.”


Google Announces Code Jam Africa 2010

Google on Friday announced “Google Code Jam Africa 2010”, a coding contest event in which professional and student programmers are asked to solve complex algorithmic challenges in a limited amount of time. The competition is a web-based test and participants can program in the coding language and development environment of their choice.

Registration for the contest runs up to 15 March and Round 1 of the competition starts on the same date. Successful coders will battle it out in round 2 after 7 days.


No Love For G-Tide Phones On Facebook

I received a page suggestion yesterday to a not so usual Zimba page on Facebook. One that doesn’t hide it’s feelings for G-Tide. It’s called “I Hate G-TIDE Cell Phones”. First I thought well, negative campaigns are not new on Facebook but I’ll just check it out and leave. But then I looked at the number of fans and stopped a bit.

The page was created yesterday morning (Zim time) and by the time I viewed it in the evening, 51 people had subscribed. I visited it just now to find the fans had doubled to 111! No mean feat for a Zim page just 2 days old. The viral effect is working against the Tide here!


Zimbabwe ICT Strategic Plan (2010-2014) Launch

We attended the launch of the ICT strategic plan yesterday. An overview of the the strategic plan; what went into it, how it was developed and how it is going to be implemented (and monitored) was given by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Eng. Kundishora.

Unfortunately there were no copies of the strategic plan for the audience to take home, but we’ll lay our hands on one in good time and post it here. Click back here in a few hours.


Chamisa To Launch The National ICT Strategic Plan Next Week

The Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa, will on 22 February launch the national ICT strategic plan for the period 2010 to 2014. The launch will take place at Jameson Hotel in Harare at 1400hrs local time.

The ICT strategic plan was approved last month and is expect to be a guideline for the country in the implementation of ICT policies and regulation. Chamisa explained that it’l be “a road map for the Ministry of ICT on how the country can strategically exploit and benefit from ICTs”.


ZOL Says “Stop Waiting For Promised 3G Connections – Connect Today To Wireless Broadband.”

In obvious reference to Econet’s delayed full rollout of data services to mobile, subscribers Zimbabwe Online (ZOL) is telling customers they don’t have to wait – we have great wireless broadband spread across the country and it is available right now! The message was sent out in a promotional email to customers titled “Introducing ZOLspot Wireless high-speed Broadband from just US $30. Faster than 3G and available today all over Zimbabwe!”

To use the ZOL wireless broadband, customers buy a prepaid scratch card available at any ZOLSpot and get immediate access to the Internet. The scratch cards are valid for 6 months from the first time you use them.


An Ultra Low Cost Phone For Africa

Vodafone yesterday announced the launch of two ultra low cost handsets targeted at consumers in the emerging markets of Africa and Asia. According to the Vodafone press release, the handsets (Vodafone 150 and Vodafone 250) will launch in the coming weeks in India and across Africa.

The Vodafone 150 will retail unsubsidised at below US $15 and the Vodafone 250, US $20, depending on the local market.


Telecel Unearths Recharge Cards Fraud Worth US$ 1.7 Million

Telecel, the second largest mobile operator in Zimbabwe, confirmed today that it has unearthed a recharge cards fraud case amounting to US $ 1,7 million.

The unscrupulous Telecel employees involved in the case, swindled the company through issuing recharge cards and starter packs using manual invoices, an invoicing method long banned by the company.


How Much Is A 3G Enabled Econet Line Worth On The Black Market? $150!

Ok, it’s official (well, in the unofficial sense), if you have US $150 to burn, you can make a few calls to guys who know guys, who know guys, who know guys that are selling Internet-ready Econet mobile lines and one will be delivered to your doorstep within the hour. The official price of an Econet line is US $5 and internet subscriptions cost a flat $25 a month.

We made a few calls ourselves and got offers ranging from $130 to $150. We tried to negotiate the price down with one guy and got the much expected “either you pay $150 or you don’t want the line, simple!” So business sure is brisk for these dealers from the dark side.


Telecel Slashes International Call Rates To As Low As A Local Call

Starting today, if you have a Telecel mobile line and need to call someone in the US, the UK, Australia, the Emirates, China or India (Update: Canada too), you will be charged local call rates. Calls to these destinations can now be made for as little as 25 US cents. Note though that this doesn’t apply to calls to Vodafone numbers in the UK.

This compares quite favorably to making international calls on other Zim mobile networks (Econet and NetOne) which costs anything between US $0.30 and US$8,70 depending on the international grouping of the destination.


Full Presentation of Zimbabwe ICT Minister, Nelson Chamisa On Just Ended AU Summit – mp3 Download

Earlier today, we posted an article on a presentation the Zimbabwe Minister of ICT made at a function organised by the computer society of zimbabwe yesterday.

We promised to make available an mp3 file of the whole presentation so here it is. We would have loved to upload the full video as well but bandwidth is an issue here.


The Zim ICT Minister on AU theme: Information and Communication Technologies in Africa: Prospects and Challenges for Development

The Computer Society of Zimbabwe organized a presentation by the Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa yesterday evening. The presentation was on the just ended African Union 14th Ordinary Summit whose theme was “Information and Communication Technologies in Africa: Prospects and Challenges for Development”

He touched on using Information and Communication Technologies as instruments for achieving peace and enhancing development and disaster response. Specifically, he talked about the following issues:


Zimbabwe Online Starts Offering VSAT Internet Services

Starting this month, Zimbabwe’s leading Internet Service Provider, Zimbabwe Online (ZOL) will be offering VSAT Internet services. VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) is an Internet solution capable of delivering high speed Internet to any location through satellite connectivity effectively, allowing very remote areas without telecommunication infrastructure to connect seamlessly to the internet.

Getting your own ZOL VSAT installed will cost US $1,800 (setup fees) and a minimum monthly subscription of US $180.


Subscribers Using Econet Data Services To Make Free Calls And SMSes

If you have an Econet line activated for Internet, there might be some ways to save a few extra dollars on calls and SMSes. There are some nifty tools used world over to make “free” calls and SMSes especially where the mobile network operator is kind enough to offer unlimited internet traffic for a flat monthly subscription.

What most subscribers are using for calls at the moment is Fring and Nimbuzz (our favourite). The call is made using the Skype platform so both the caller and recipient need to have Skype accounts. For SMS there’s mjoy, a mobile web application to send texts for free to almost anywhere in the world.


Telecel Website Taken Offline

The website of the second largest mobile operator, Telecel was taken down this morning. It’s not clear why. We suspect one of two things; either the site’s design and content was now just so outdated it wasn’t doing justice to the name of this fast growing telco, or this could be a security issue,some nasty hacking business. We’ve sent an email of inquiry.

If the first reason is the case (and we hope it is) it wouldn’t have hurt to put some useful info there in addition to the wrongly worded “Telecel Zimbabwe Website is currently under construction”. Maybe a logo for identity purposes and additional text like “You can reach us on the following telephone numbers… and we’re at this physical address.” And maybe some kind of time estimate of how long things will stay like this.


Econet To Introduce A Pay Phone “Call-Me-Back” Service

Econet Wireless is currently carrying out the final tests of a payphone ‘call me back’ service to be rolled out by end of this month. According to Econet’s Corporate Communications Manager, Ranga Mberi, the service is targeted at low income and rural subscribers who may not afford making calls on the network.

The announcement was made in a story published on the Econet investor relations website today. “As most people in Zimbabwe are on the Econet network, the new service will allow most people who live in rural areas, or are unable to own their own cell phone, to send messages to relatives, to call them back, for free. It is also expected to be very popular with students, and other young people, who need to contact parents urgently, but may not have money,” explained Mberi.


Africom To Launch CDMA2000 Mobile Network

Word has it that Africom is in the advanced stages of implementing a CDMA 2000 mobile network. The new mobile network will ride on its already established metro fibre networks in Harare and Bulawayo.

According to our source, Africom is taking advantage of the anything-goes class A operator license they hold to spread into the mobile telephony business, a territory dominated by the ever expanding Econet. Though basically an Internet access provision license, the class A license doesn’t have anything in black and white stopping a licensee from building a mobile voice network. POTRAZ, the telecoms regulatory authority has since suspended the issue of these licenses.


Google Africa Announces The G-Nigeria Event

Google Africa yesterday announced the G-Nigeria Day 2010 event on their Google Africa blog. The event is to be held at the University of Lagos from 18 to 20 February. The main objective of the G-Africa events is to help African developers and entrepreneurs build localised applications and implement business ideas using Google technologies. The event is facilitated by Google engineers who take attendees through sessions on the latest Google tools and hands-on codelabs.


Econet to Commission Fibre-Optic System By March

conet CEO Douglas Mboweni, said today Econet will commission its fibre-optic cable system in the major cities by March this year. ‘Major cities’ here probably refers to Harare and maybe Bulawayo. He made the revelation in an update of the network upgrade work that has been going on since the start of 2009. He confirmed that the upgrade work is nearing completion and a bundle of services should start rolling out in the next few weeks.

Explaining why it took more than a year to complete the work he said:

The process of raising money, ordering equipment, and bringing in contractors to build and install equipment takes time. In our case, we were not only expanding capacity but also replacing obsolete equipment that had not been replaced in 10 years. It was like starting from scratch.


Chamisa For Re-issuing TeleAccess With A Fixed Line License

Zimbabwe Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa would like to see the pressure on TelOne to meet fixed line subscriptions demands eased. How? By re-issuing TeleAccess (remember the guys that sat on a license for 2 years until it was taken back) with an operator’s license. According to the Herald, Chamisa will be meeting Attorney General Johannes Tomana to discuss giving TeleAccess another chance.

Similar meetings were talked about last year but it’s not clear what became of them. Chamisa’s reason remains; that “the Government would not tolerate monopoly, more so by an operator facing serious financial and infrastructure limitations to meet service demand” and that two operators will result in better service delivery.


“MTN set to acquire…” Rumours All Over Again. We Hope It’s A Solid Deal This Time.

The rumours about MTN’s interest in acquiring a stake in one of Zimbabwe’s mobile operators have resurfaced, only this time it’s the government owned NetOne up for grabs.

So yes, we’re gleefully wagging our tails yet again, hoping this is not just another Telecel story. MTN was last year reported to be courting Telecel in a deal to acquire a controlling stake in the second largest (by number of subscribers) mobile operator. There was a lot of hype around the deal, with subscribers vowing to switch from whatever network they were on to the new Telecel. But the excitement had to die down. What with the long wait? The then ‘imminent’ deal never was.