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Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates

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A Message To ZOL And Telecontract: It Didn’t Have To Come To This

The last two weeks have been a nightmare for some 200 Zimbabwe Online (ZOL) customers. On 25 March 2010, a ZOL last mile connection provider, Telecontract, switched off the customers because of a payment dispute with ZOL. ZOL is arguably the largest internet service provider in Zimbabwe. Telecontract (also called Telco) too is one of the largest internet access providers locally.

To explain the disconnection situation, ZOL issued 2 press statements, absolving themselves of any wrong doing, apologizing to customers, and assuring them that they were doing everything possible to get them reconnected.


Exclusive Interview with Telecontract CEO, Shadreck Nkala Over ZOL Disconnections

Two days ago we posted an exclusive interview we had with the ZOL CEO David Behr over the broadband disconnections we posted here on Monday. David Behr revealed some interesting aspects to the story.

Later the same day, we had another exclusive with the other side, Telco CEO Shadreck Nkala. Below is the transcription of the Interview. Like ZOL, he also reveals some issues that have not been apparent before this interview. Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Shadreck Nkala: It is very unfortunate. People abuse the facilities that they get provided.

Tech Zim: You feel abused?

SN: Yes, we’re feeling very seriously abused.

TZ: How were you abused?


Exclusive Interview with ZOL CEO, David Behr Over Telco Disconnections

So, today we finally got a chance to talk to the David Behr, the ZOL CEO. Below is the full text of the 1 on 1 interview we had with him this afternoon. He basically explains more on the dispute between his company and Telecontract we reported earlier this week. We’re hoping to have a similar talk with the Telecontract CEO if we can get hold of him. (UPDATE (04 April 2010: 1148hrs): here is an exclusive with Telco CEO, Shadreck Nkala.)

Tech Zim: I’ll just start with the current status, after the update on the website and the press news release, what’s going on?


ZOL Moving Disconnected Customers To Africom

Since ZOL came out with the story about its fallout with last-mile network provider Telecontract, we’ve been trying to get more details about the issue from the two. It hasn’t been easy. The Telecontract CEO, Shadreck Nkala, is said to be in meetings all day and all we get are promises that he’ll call back. Same thing with the ZOL CEO.

Can be frustrating this job sometimes! So, we’re left with no option but to go the informal route.

Anyway, we’re getting information that ZOL is in the process of moving all clients to Africom, the company bringing in the SEACOM fibre from TDM in Mozambique.


Ecoweb To Launch Mobile WiMax In April

Ever since Ecoweb announced the coming launch of mobile WiMax last year in October, we’ve been waiting eagerly here at Techzim for further announcements and possibly, a launch date.

This didn’t come until last week when Ecoweb finally said something through their Econet investor relations page. Ecoweb, a wholly owned subsidiary of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe revealed that it is in the final testing phase of mobile WiMax project and will be opening it up to subscribers in next month.

Speaking about the deployment, Ecoweb General Manager, Tororiro Isaac Chaza said:


Telecontract ‘Illegally’ Disconnects 200 Zimbabwe Online’s Broadband Customers

We’ve been hearing rumours over the past week that Telecontract was threatening to disconnect all ZOL clients if ZOL didn’t let them bill customers directly. The rumour was confirmed yesterday when ZOL issued a press statement to explain what was going on in this troubled marriage.

Some background:

The arrangement that has been working for the two telcos until recently, was that ZOL would sign up customers for the upstream internet service they have and use Telecontract for the last mile connection to the client.


Of Econet’s Liquid Telecom Fibre And Harare’s ‘Digital Revolution’

An article about the Econet metro fibre network in The Standard last week, had the following takeaway:

IMAGINE Harare, in its dilapidated state, being the most digitalised city in the world. To many, this may sound too far-fetched but for Liquid Telecom, a subsidiary of Econet and Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda it is only a matter of time before the dream is realised.

Well, yes, too far-fetched actually. The article goes on to explain a Public Private Partnership (now a buzz phrase with politicians here) where Econet’s satellite operator subsidiary, Liquid Telecom and the Harare City Council are embarking on a US$ 3.5million project to install fibre optic rings in the city.


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.


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.”


Broken Promises: Broadlands Networks And Blades of Uncovered Grass

On November 30 2009, we posted an article titled “Ambitious New Telecoms Operator, Broadlands Networks”. In the article, we expressed our reservations on some (now) clearly overambitious statements made by Broadlands Networks CEO, Chemist Siziba in a local weekly paper.

Then, Broadlands promised that there’d be “…no blade of grass that we will not cover in January.” Obviously, this did not happen. It’s March now and I personally do not know of a blade of grass that has been covered. If you, dear reader do, please let us know in the comments section below. What we’ve seen though is the emergence of a row between Broadlands and the telecommunications regulator. The kind of wrangling that starts when things are not in order. You know, the TeleAccess kind of row.


The Zimbabwe ICT Strategic Plan (2010–2014) – The Document

We finally received a copy of the strategic plan from the ministry. Here it is for download.
We provide a summary of the most significant strategic objectives for those of you too ‘busy’ to read the whole document. We also note a few important issues at the end, that we feel are lacking in the ICT ministry’s’ strategic plan.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


2009 Global ICT Facts

This month, the International Telecommunications Union released the “World in 2009, ICT Facts and Figures” report available in pdf here. Below is a summary some of the most interesting facts.


Ambitious New Telecoms Operator, Broadlands Networks

Yesterday’s Standard newspaper carried an article on the new telecoms operator, Broadlands, with the title: “New Operator to End TelOne Dominance”. It’s not clear from the article if Broadlands Networks is after a slice of TelOne’s market share in fixed telecommunication services, International bandwidth wholesaling or mobile CMDA services.


Seacom Blames African Governments And ISPs For Costly Internet

Seacom has heaped the costly internet blame on African national governments and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for failing to pass on the benefits of high speed internet to ordinary citizens. Seacom was responding yesterday through a post on its blog following numerous queries on its Facebook and Twitter pages. Quite visibly unhappy that the much […]


Zimbabwe’s Fibre-Optic Internet Backbone Projects

I’ve been curious to find out what high speed Internet backbone projects are underway in Zimbabwe. Reading through the Zimbabwe investment prospectus launched by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) a few months ago, I came across a project by Africom Continental. Africom Continental is a special purpose vehicle company formed by Africom (50%), the Infrastructure […]


Ecoweb To Launch VSAT And Mobile Wimax

Two weeks ago we posted that Ecoweb was going to start offering VSAT services. Ecoweb has since made it public that they will be launching their VSAT operations soon. This is welcome news to many organizations such as mining companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and tourism companies with operations in Zimbabwe’s most remote areas where fixed […]


TEAMS Undersea Cable Ready For Commercial Use

The East African Marine System (TEAMS) cable will be launched this week. TEAMS is a submarine fibre-optic cable systems linking Kenya to the world through the United Arab Emirates. The project was initiated by the the Kenya government in 2007 to augment the SEACOM cable which runs along the shores of east and southern Africa […]


SEACOM Competition: What Could Africa Do With More Bandwidth

In a bid to get creative broadband use ideas from none other than the users themselves SEACOM has launched a competition dubbed “What could Africa do with more bandwidth?”. For a chance to win a Flip UltraHD camcorder valued at around $200 and an unspecified “insane Seacom hamper“, East and Southern Africans (I wonder where […]


Zimbabwe 6th in Global Narrowband Connecitivity Assessment

And no, I’m not making fun of my beloved country, the word “Narrowband” does exist and Zim is very close to the top. If you’re in Zimbabwe and you’re viewing this blog on a +256 Kbps connection, you’re amoung a priviledged 4% of Zim internet users! In a “State of the Internet” report released by […]


Ecoweb To Start Offering VSAT Services

I’m told in less than 24 hours Ecoweb will announce their new VSAT satellite Internet services. No Information yet on pricing but that shouldn’t be hard to get once they go public with it. VSAT implementation in Zimbabwe has been contentious issue with the regulator POTRAZ, who at one point went (or threatened to) around […]


Telecel Launching 3G Shortly

A week ago we bemoaned the fact that with both NetOne and Telecel not on 3G, Econet subscribers wouldn’t enjoy video calling to friends on these networks. Well, not anymore. We’re told Telecel will be launching its own 3G service in about 3 weeks… moving quite fast to catch up to the world aren’t we! […]