When Econet’s 3G Will Open To All Subscribers

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar
Douglas Mboweni and George Barbaressos
Douglas Mboweni and George Barbaressos
Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni and Commercial Director George Barbaressos in question and answer session

Since Econet launched 3G on its network  last year in August, the services has had more than a few problems. First it was that 3G itself was only limited to the greater Harare. And just shortly after launch new subscriptions for the service were suspended, leaving millions of subscribers out of this fascinating new service.  A few months later, data lines emerged on the black market forcing desperate subscribers to fork out as much as US $150 for a 3G enabled line.

Add the 3G problems to issues with undelivered SMS issues and you have yourself a subscriber base increasingly losing its patience. Literally.

Last week, Techzim was invited to the launch of the new Buddie. There we asked the Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni about the black market data lines and when data services will be opened up to all subscribers. Mr. Mboweni revealed that some individuals have been arrested in connection with the black market data lines. Most arrested on charges of duplicating application forms to buy bulk volumes which are channeled to the black market.

On when data services will be opened up to all subscribers, the CEO said:

You can make calls, 3G calls right now but we have not activated the commercial launch because of the testing that we’re doing at the moment. That test is probably going to take place in a couple of weeks. What we want to do is, those queues that you saw initially, we don’t want to see queues for data. In fact I can safely say that with our network we will have capacity for at least 500,000.

Econet Commercial Director George Barbaressos clarified on the commercial launch: “…in about 2 months, July or August”


  1. Tapiwa

    Oh please don’t let econet add more data users until the fibre cable is 100% operational. If the service is already this slow, can you imagine it with double the subscribers?!? That will half our already dwindling speeds.

    Also, when will 3G be available in places like Meyrick Park?

  2. Andrew

    Firstly i would like to express my deepest gratitude to Econet Wireless, for the great technological leap they have enabled us to somehow enjoy,(thoeratically and to a certain extent practically), through the introduction of a relatively affordable mobile(3G)internet service.

    Dial-up is astronomically expensive and ironically very slow.And even at the current standards, i will settle for Econet’s service any time of the day.

    I suppose Econet is facing a number of dilemmas including:

    The current unavaliability of a solid fibre optic backbone for the country equals to a frustatingly limited amount of bandwidth to go around for everyone on the network to share (due to the main use of satellite transmission), worsened by the fact that since every subscriber is allowed unlimited access of this small bandwidth space, the network is constantly congested and therefore slow.

    Another factor for consideration is the fact that the absence of virtually no competition to econet’s service, this places a heavy burden on econet to carry a huge number of internet subscriptions, without anyone to share this huge burden with.

    Finally the rather uncontrolled addition of more subcribers on the already suffocating data network, through consistent leaking of supposedly ‘unoffically’ unavailiable data lines, through the backdoor market has a debilitating effect on the quality of service on the data network, believe me i know how painful this is.

    To cut a long story short Econet has to realise the following:

    1)The integration of data and voice technology on the mobile platform has become the norm of today and the standard of tomorrow, it is highly critical to contniously heavily invest in data transimssion as this shall become the life-line of all communication in the future as more and more people can afford and appreciate the benefits of the internet and it’s related technologies, thereby demanding more from their devices.

    2)After setting the trend and the pace for everyone to follow through investment and introduction of the first affordable mobile internet service in Zimbabwe, Econet should seriously safeguard it’s position as the number one voice and data mobile service provider, through ensuring a very high standard of quality of service in data transmission because, i can assure you as it stands most people are fedup with the quality of data transmission and these clients will most certainly jump ship the moment a new data provider surfaces on the market as this fact is most certain with the completion of the fibre optic deployment exercise in the country.

    3)Why is it the quality of service is much better on the the voice network tha the data network ?- it is because of a combination of excellent hardware and software technologies enhanced by the fact that due to tariff charges a person will not hog the network by staying unnecessarily on the phone for long periods. And without a fibre backbone to lean on, it is very unrealistic to afford unlimited access to the data network to every subcriber as this will lead to serious congestion and will render useless the assumption of unlimited access, causing more frustration and disgruntlement from subscribers

    Econet must really take this data transmission issue very very very seriously because in the long run a significant number of clients are going to be lost because of a bad perception and avaliability of other options to pick from.

    I belive econet deserves it’s spot in the limelight for now, but can only maintain this through a very high quality of service, signal strength in it’s data network and transparent access to everyone to whatever number of data lines available, instead of allowing fly by night delears to benefit from it’s hard earned investment and reputation.

  3. Tapiwa

    Thanks Andrew for your detailed look on econets strengths and weeknesses. I however am greatly frustrated by their current quality of service and here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to them which I still wait for a proper reply. Currently they’ve just asked me to give them my location and phone number:

    Subject: Angry GPRS Subscribers

    I am shocked and appalled at the current service we are experiencing with your mobile internet. Like all the other gprs subscribers I am utterly disgusted at the level of quality the service is!

    Opening a web-page takes forever if it even opens at all. There is that 1 day of the month where it works normally but then for the other 30 days its hell. I do plenty of work with international clients over the internet and not even being able to open a 1mb attachment because of poor internet quality and dead slow speeds sickens me!

    You say that you are upgrading the network to fibre and yet these upgrades disrupt service EVERYDAY? I personally don’t mind dial up speeds until we can get proper speeds when the fibre project is done, but what I and other people are getting is PATHETIC!!! The average dial-up speed ranges between 50-60kbs on http://www.speedtest.net were as your supposed Edge/3G is failing to even complete the test and when it does the speeds are between 0-20kbs!! How are we even supposed to check our mail with 19th century speeds?

    I was in SA last week and I git about 200kbs on edge and 700kbs on 3G. How can you not even give us half of that on a consistent basis?

    I’ve called the your call center about 5 times now and all they tell me is to restart my phone or disconnect my ”3g card” which I deem was a total waste of money. The internet quality is unimaginable!!!

    I strongly suggest that you get your house in order before people start asking for refunds!! You do not even know how lucky I was to be able to send this e-mail using your 3g card…usually I can’t even open google.com.

    Econet better be careful because when Telecel launches its gprs I can guarantee you most people are going to give that a shot and if they prove reliable your company will make a grave loss of customers.

    So all I ask for is a detailed explanation as to why we’re not getting reliable internet though were paying $25 a month?

  4. Andrew

    I certainly feel your pain my friend and i think after you experienced the quality of service in South Africa, it only makes matters worse.
    To be honest i think the problem with econet is that they are really taking this data transmission issue for granted and concentrating too much on their voice network, i personally live in a town that is about 80km out of harare and one day i went to a certain econet shop in harare to enquire about this data issue. I was informed by an econet employee, that as far as econet is concerned there really is no value for them to significantly invest in their data network because they assume that people living out of harare are not competant enough to know about or use high speed internet, so it’s not worth the investment. Can you image such a pathetic answer coming from an employee of the largest mobile operator in the country, whether this assertion is true or not is not the point, but the point is that this reflects the general mood and approach econet is taking towards data transmission. Seriously whoever is responsible for data transmission at econet must seriously seriously change their approach and ensure a significant change in data transmission speeds and stop committing advertising fraud, by advertising a range of services that they cannot offer (in other countries they would be investigated and possibly fined heavily for this misleading of the customer)

    Another problem that i noticed is that the highly priced USD$120 3G modems are fake in the sense that most them are faulty and continously freeze in the process of data transmission. I have tried to search for the manufacturer of these modems so as to get a softawre update,but i cannot even manage to pin-point the company that manufactured them after a very thorough search. So my question is why did econet not use tried and tested manufacturers like ZTE, SonyEriccson and Huawei to manufacture their 3G modems, so that any user can simply log on to company’s website and obtain regular updates and patches for the modems, as this is the norm with most devices.

    I am not a rocket scientist neither do i possess an MBA or some fancy business degree, but honestly i believe i would have faired much better in managing econet’s data network, regardless of the fact that we do not have a solid fibre optic backbone.
    Econet must know that it takes the best computer “nerds” and “geeks” to manage their data network , coz it’s such people who truly understand the complexities and value of a fast and efficient data network for their clients, (this is why Microsoft, Apple, Dell and HP are so sucessful in their line of business)

    If i were the telecel boss, i would certainly speed up the introduction of 3G on it’s network, and avoid all the blunders that econet is currently making and i can assure you people would certainly switch to telecel for both voice and data services.
    It’s high time econet gets some real competition coz after years of testing the 3G network and 9 months after the offical launch, i am sure they should have sorted out most issues by now.

    The Econet boss should not talk about 500 000 subscribers, in a country of 12 millon+ potential subscribers, coz in this day and age mobile internet access or internet access in general is no longer a preserve for the rich, but a basic human right that should be afforded to each and every individual in the country at the lowest possible cost.

    The biggest cause for all this frustration is the presence of a very incompetant communication department at econet, i mean if you log on to their website you cannot even get any updates as to the current progress of their network infrastructure upgrading, what they are doing about issues and concerns raised by customers, tips and tricks to attempt when the network is poor, a forum for subscribers to vent their issues (and not to only use facebook to interact with clients) etc etc etc
    If people really knew the truth about the challenges econet is facing i am sure there would be much more understanding from subscribers. Does one have to be a professor of philosophy to know that truthful and honest communication with your clients is the essence to a solid and long lasting relationship with your customers.



  5. kodza

    The truth is Econet is engaging in consumer fraud the service is now non existant.In Sa the service works just fine for about the ssme amount.I think its time we sued this “Uninspiring” company for such blatant disregard for consumer rights rather than plead with them.

  6. Beki

    The Econet CEO was constantly in the news promising service by such and such a date. Now the service is basically non-existent and we need them the most to tell us what is going on.

    The silence is deafening, to use an old cliche. We need information. I am in Bulawayo using the GPRS service and i cannot access international websites. they only come online after 10PM. What is going on and for how long are we going to wait? Please information somebody, please.

  7. tendai

    uori oori please econet employees stop selling 3G lines and internet modems to black market gansters

  8. Toniya

    Econet is only able to abuse their customers (and businesses that depend on them) because they are essentially the only game in town. The exploitation by Econet will be challenged once a different carrier can provide a credible internet experience for customers and businesses. I don’t see any relief on the horizon thus far and Zimbabwe’s potential again takes a back seat to exploitation by a monopoly.