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.
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.
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 We suspect one of two things; either the site's design and content was now just so outdated it wasn't doing justice to the name of this fast growing telco, or this could be a security issue,some nasty hacking business.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 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.
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, it seems, has decided to go all the way in providing mobile services for subscribers. It has officially joined the cell phone mad rush, flighting adverts for mobile phones and accessories in the local papers. Econet started out about a year ago with the ‘Buddie Lite’, a ZTE manufactured low end phone with basic telephony and SMS features. Later in the year it introduced another range of Econet branded mobile phones, moderately basic this time. Both ranges were bundled with the prepaid subscriber lines. With this new offering Econet has unbundled the package; it’s a just a mobile phone now, no line. They’re making a bold statement here to all mobile phone dealers; that they’re seriously interested in a piece of the pie. And that’s no small piece we’re talking here, it wouldn’t be worth their while if it was.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2009 came with a shift in ICT policy direction by the government. Customs duty on ICT equipment for example was suspended and currently ICT hardware suppliers only need to pay 15% VAT on imported equipment. Most positive change has generally been attributed to the energetic Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa.
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.
Today, an interesting article posted on Zimbo Jam two days ago caught my eye. It carried news on how one of Zimbabwe’s most popular musicians, Sani Makhalima, has found a solution to close the door on the music piracy problem. The solution: He has set up a new company that is marketing a software product that makes it impossible to read an audio CD on a computer. What in the world is that? Seriously, in this day and age, why would anyone want to propose a music format that cannot be played on computers and portable media players? Is the big picture even in sight? What a disaster in the making!
G-Tide, the makers of the locally popular G-Tide mobile phone launched their regional office in Harare on Wednesday at a ceremony held at the Crowne Plaza. The mobile phone appeared on the market about a year ago and has arguably taken up a significant slice of the mobile phone market in Zimbabwe.
Last week we posted an article on Zimbabwe’s Google search trends in 2009. In the article we noted something interesting about how people use browsers and search engines. The top ‘rising searches’ in 2009 on Google for 2009 are all variations of facebook; “facebook.com”, “www.facebook.com”, “facebook login”, and just “facebook”. Shows just how much more popular the social networking site has become in the past year. It also shows something else; people Google Facebook instead typing it directly into the address bar.
On visiting facebook last night, I was met with a prompt to update my privacy settings. Basically, the new privacy settings default your profile views to everyone. Including the boss whose friend request you haven’t responded to in over a year now. And pervy male stalkers crawling the net like search engines. Prospective employers too; they’re in the habit of Googling interviewees these days. The only information Facebook is suggesting you keep to your circle of friends is your email address, phone number and physical address.
According to Google Insights for Search, Zimbabweans just love facebook. We love it so much it’s in the first four spots in 2009’s top ten rising searches. At number 1 as “login facebook” then 2 as “facebook.com”, 3 as “www.facebook.com” and 4 as just “facebook”!
Whenever my Firefox freezes, I immediately check if Adobe Reader’s trying to open a PDF from inside the browser. More often than not this is the reason and killing the tab (which is not always a click-and-close process) makes the fox happy again. Adobe Reader is THAT bloated, well for me at least.
It's quite interesting to read news that Zimbabwe’s second largest mobile operator (by number of subscribers) is now using solar energy to power its base stations. Net*One boasts the widest network coverge in Zimbabwe and keeping its large inventory of base stations powered has probably been a challenge, hence the green solution.
Zimbabwean companies have come up with all kinds of solutions to the change problems that followed the economy’s dollarisation earlier this year. The problem itself is that a lot items are priced with a cents component or just cost less than a US dollar. This is a nightmare because there are just not enough coins in circulation in the country. Some grocery shops issue customers with credit notes, some just ask you to choose an additional item from the shelves to round off the price to a solid dollar. On very rare lucky days you’ll get your change in South African Rands. Indeed some have used the “sorry, no change” excuse to get customers to buy more stuff.
According to the Information Society Statistical Profiles 2009 report prepared by the International Telecommunications Union, in 2008 there were 11 internet users out of every 100 inhabitants in Zimbabwe. 2009 itself saw more Zimbabweans connecting to the Internet owing to the introduction of mobile Internet by telecoms operator Econet. Even more connections will be made over the next several months as the economy stabilizes and ISPs & mobile operators take on more subscribers.
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.
Tech blogs have been awash with news about Google’s release of the Chrome OS source code since last week. The release announcement itself was made at the Google Chrome OS launch event in Mountain View CA, in the States. Great news indeed and quite momentous for all and sundry in computing. A lot interesting the […]
About a week ago, we saw a call for bids for the construction of long distance cable trenches nationwide. The tendering company is called Aquiva. Virtually unknown in the telecommunications industry, Aquiva proudly asserts that they are “set to roll out services soon”. It’s not clear what kind of communication services this “nationwide cable project” […]
The 2009 Computer Society of Zimbabwe (CSZ) Summer School will be held this weekend at Montclaire Hotel in Nyanga. The Summer School provides a platform for IT professionals to learn the latest developments in the ICT profession and generally serves as a great networking opportunity with fellow geeks. Normally open to CSZ members only, this […]
Google Uganda anounced today that Google Trader, which has been avalable as a mobile SMS-based marketplace will now be availabe on the web. The mobile version of the service was launched in June this year and allows users to buy and sell goods and services using SMS. Sellers register for free and post their items […]