The Econet Mobile Broadband Letdown

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar
Sad, Let Down

Sad, Let DownTo say we didn’t wait one year with bated breath for Econet to launch mobile broadband would be incorrect. We waited, patiently. We naively thought Econet would use its muscle and deep pockets to roll out the most affordable mobile broadband service. So naturally, when we first heard about the new tariffs last week, we thought it was a mistake. We wouldn’t believe it and told ourselves there had to be an explanation. That Econet would correct this misinformation. Maybe some techie there had entered these incorrect tariffs while testing the system. We even wrote Econet a letter, asking them to say something. They did not respond.

It turned out ofcourse three days later that the leaked tariffs were real.

These are the tariffs you get when you dial *140# and select option 1:

  1. Buy 5MB for $2
  2. Buy 50MB for $20
  3. Buy 100MB for $30
  4. Buy 200MB for $50
  5. Buy 500MB for $75
  6. Buy 1GB for $98

If you live in the greater Harare, Econet’s new tariffs are worrying but you’re not without alternatives. Africom and PowerTel both offer significantly more affordable 3G services and they should be making the most of this moment. Using PowerTel for example, US $50 will give you ‘unlimited’ Internet for a month. Africom is charging US $15 for a Gigabyte of data (more on Africom in another article).

But for those of us outside Harare, choices are not as abundant. In fact, in most areas, Econet is pretty much all you have. And Econet knows this.

Both Africom and PowerTel have made promises to switch on services in Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Kwekwe, Kadoma and Chegutu in the next few weeks, but you know what they say about talk, it’s cheap. Weeks can turn into months, and months, years. So if you’re in these areas, we’d say wait but don’t hold your breath.

In terms of mobile broadband coverage, the real formidable challenge to Econet remains Telecel. And maybe NetOne at some point. Econet knows this too.

The quality of the Africom, PowerTel and Econet broadband is ofcourse an important factor in all this. No speed comparison has been made yet. At least we haven’t. We actually think there’s too much noise right now to make any meaningful speed tests. The service providers are signing up hundreds of users per day and these numbers will definitely affect quality. When the dust settles, it’ll be easier to know what you’re getting for your dollars, and to decide what you’ll settle for.

Still it is difficult to understand what Econet’s is trying to do here. Well, we know it’s to get quick returns on the money poured into infrastructure, but you would think it’d try strike a healthy balance there.

Maybe it has to with the drop in revenue that we hear per second billing caused.

Response from Internet users in Zim has been anything but good. Take a look at this Econet 3G Facebook page for example. Or the comments to this article we posted last week when the service was launched. Econet’s standing with subscribers hasn’t been the best lately. Its brand battered by a year of broken promises, dropped calls, cross lines, undelivered (but charged) SMSs, and an inaccessible call center.

Some would question if these problems are real or just perception issues. Indeed some would be quick to point out that both Telecel and NetOne subscribers are experiencing some of the same issues. And to be fair, Econet has invested heavily in the country’s telecoms infrastructure. The company has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into telecoms infrastructure that will form a critical telecoms backbone for Zimbabwe, effectively helping the country take step up to the next level of high speed data access.

Maybe it’s the case of people having bigger expectations for a big operator.

More details about the Econet broadband services are available at a new site dedicated to the service:


  1. Taurayi Gama

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Econet “clientless” are currently the biggest scam artists on earth. What I can’t wait to see is the faces of those who have contracts who are ‘obliviously’ roaming the net not having been informed that a megabyte has now become a mega MUNCH … to MUCH!!!

  2. Debonair

    There is a mis spelling on this link in your article. great stuff otherwise.

  3. Kabweza

    thanks hey

  4. JamesM

    Correction! Econet is NOT signing on hundreds of customers for its 3G internet, it’s Africom who is and to a lesser extent Powertel. Powertel has the right price but a useless service. I agree with you that Telecel has the potential and wherewithal to unseat Econet permanently from it’s perch. It’s got a global parent company with deep pockets and a global infrastructure quite capable of providing the Zimbabwe market with an unparalleled broadband experience. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

  5. JamesM

    Econet get’s away with this here in Zim because they long bought government influence to keep away foreign competition. In other markets outside Zim where they compete, they are getting whacked in the behind badly by real competitors. In foreign markets Econet wins only in the courtroom!!!

  6. Zibo

    Before the launch of 3G, Econet sent everyone SMS’s promising competetive packages but I don’t see anything competetive about their bundles. This has been a mega sized let down.

  7. Roger

    I’ve been trying since Friday to find someone at Econet who can tell me how I can get an “on the go” broadband connection to my phone for which I have a contract line. Seems no one knows. They only know about the pre-paid options.

  8. Artful Dodger

    A big con job !! last week used 16mb within 5min just browsing face book and twitter you can calculate the cost at $2 per 5 mb a rip off for sure

  9. slackie does a good job of explaining why zim internet is slow and expensive.

  10. TownTalk

    A quiet church mouse is better than one who makes endless fake promises… or a narcissistic one at that..

  11. Marek

    Compare: “Sprint Galaxy Tab customers will have two data plans to choose from with their two-year contract: 2GB with unlimited messaging for $29.99/month or 5GB with unlimited messaging for $59.99/month” – quote from

    This is in the US. 59.99/5 = $12/Gig. Compared to $98/Gig for Econet I cannot think of any acceptable explanation.

  12. Roger

    I’ve now been told that contract phone lines cannot have less than 200MB per month for $50. I have wi-fi at home/work. So they expect me to pay $50 to make occasional use of it if I’m out? And presumably the other phone on the same contract would also have to pay $50. They’ve got to be kidding.

  13. unity

    hey, to be frank with you no one will write such an interesting & true story of what is currently happening. this is superb!!!

  14. thefirstavenger

    regarding your mention of powertel in this article, its a good thing you have used the the word unlimited in inverted commas because my experience so far is that powertel is quite limited by the inability to connect to the network and slow speed during the day. the situation improves somewhat at night but still requires many attempts to get connected. anyone switching to powertel should have modest expectations…

  15. Oscar Manduku

    Come on people, when are you going to stop having a soft spot for Econet, just because their founder was David in a Goliath situation? Econet is oppressing people now and it needs to return to its former glory in our hearts. Yes, Strive is David, but if you read down the Chronicles of the kings of Israel, there rose one called Solomon, a wise and brilliant king, who enlarged the empire significantly. He, however, because of greed, forsook his first love and started oppressing people…This resulted in his kingdom being split into two, one going to a servant. So if ECONET continues to oppress people with their outrageous pricing, very soon you will read something…because US$30 for 100MB is not a joke people. So what you had to pay US$100m for the 3G investment, but does that mean you get the return on that investment in six months? Please stop oppressing people. I love ECONET…It is my brand…stop abusing me. I stopped using the line I had, as a personal vow that until you stop this nonsense I will use Telecel and NetOne. Kwanai mhani! You preach the gospel yet oppress the people. Stop that, now!

  16. Yvee

    i miraculously got through to their helpdesk (had to have a lot of patience of course) Apparently you have to visit one of the Econet offices, show them your phone so they can assess whether its compatible with the 3G service or not and if it passes, you get a data line. This data line will bear the same number as your current Econet sim and you won’t have to pay for it. Copy your sim contacts to the new data line (dunno if that means the old line stays with econet or if its inactivated) and you’re good to go. Buy your airtime and dial *140#. select option 1 and buy the data bundle of your choice.

  17. tary

    econet is useless they think that they can steal peoples and get away with it. I give them 3 weeks and by then people will no longer be interested in the service,these guys from econet make people want to hate internet because they think its unaffordable

  18. patbro

    im using the old powertel package for $25 unlimited
    it gives about 7kb/s peak and 14kb/offpeak
    im thinking of going to africom
    what are the speeds like

  19. Taurayi Gama

    Powertel hardly gets connected, but have been trying out Africom for a week now and happy with the service. Now all they need is sim cards for smart phones…

  20. Benson

    Thats not a lie Oscar it is the Econet’s habit to charge exobitent prices when competion is still limited. Jus check on the promotions by telecel, they benefit every one (Mega Juice) not making the whole nation of more than 10 million Econet subscribers fight for a car which might neva be won wat does that mean!!!!

  21. hope

    can the gadgets like apple ipod be used 4 these funtion if yes how

  22. Bianca

    Please can someone let me know if blackberry is fully supported by econet. can we use as normal with internet and are there any contracts?

  23. Kwami

    Econet are obviously behaving like a bull in a china shop. In the same way insurance companies took us for a ride by telling us our insurance policies are worthless when the zimdollar was suspended, when the truth of the matter is that had long invested our money in property etc – the long and short of it is that they screwed us. And now Econet wishes to do the same…It ain’ t gonna happen, at least to me anyway. The goodwill we had for these clowns is gone. Never again will so many poor be so screwed by so greedy fat cats at Econet and the rest of them. I hear this thing about Afrikom and low prices. Who wants to bet me they will soon hook us in, the connive with econet and put there tariffs up too. I just don’t trust all these clowns. It’s a regulated scam club for the big bwanas! Watch and see what will happen comrades.

  24. Kwami

    Don’t worry mate. Very soon you will be crying because all it takes is a round of golf between the 2 CEOs and the tarrifs will be set. Don’t be suprised if they next advert you see will be wishing to advice our valued customers that due to reasons beyond our control and in an effort to provide you with the best service, we have revised our prices to match eco-chii. Africom – linking you with the future (of course to butter you up. Don’t hold your beathe!)

  25. At least I don’t have to use dial up anymore

    Just got Powertel.

    I used to get about 60kB/s at night, the last week or so it’s dropped to about 30kB/s (those figures are for downloading with a download manager)

  26. Fmzondiwa

    Econet is really ripping us off and this is an opportunity for Africom to gain much ground into the market. However, it seems Africom is more than content in its fifth position in the market as I do not see any active marketing from them except refferals from friends