Mobile broadband has had a huge positive impact on the connectivity landscape in Zimbabwe. There’s more choice now, more competition, and so many positive outcomes from that. It’s a watershed moment in the country’s connectivity history. Of course, right now the benefits are still clouded by the ridiculous mobile broadband pricing by some operators, but looking back to this moment, when enough competition has taken care of the pricing, it will all be clear just how much of a jump this is.
Internet Access Providers, , starting in2010, stepped in to provide easy-to-setup mobile internet services that changed the game completely for long time fixed internet providers.
See, before the mobile broadband revolution of 2010, only a few Zimbabweans could afford to connect to the internet. The few people that had access would typically get it at their workplaces, internet cafes and Hotspots. A small privileged group connected from home
To get connected at home, these were the typical choices: Have a fixed line for ADSL; buy a WiMax customer kit for about US$1,000; buy a US$1,000 UHF radio kit; have fibre pulled to your house; or, buy VSAT. TelOne, the sole fixed line operator in Zimbabwe, currently has capacity for some 390,000 lines so the ADSL route clearly wasn’t available for much of Zimbabwe’s populace. And as for the other options, they are simply out of reach for the bulk of Zimbabweans.
It is this large and previously left-out group that is adopting mobile broadband internet services. The subscriber numbers we’re hearing in general discussions with staff at these mobile broadband providers are quite impressive. We have clearly entered a new era.
Setting up an internet connection doesn’t need to cost a thousand dollars anymore. Subscribers can get connected by just buying airtime and using their mobile phones. And if one doesn’t have an internet-able mobile phone, they can get one for less than US$50. For those that can afford computers, they can enjoy big screen surfing by just tethering their phone to the PC or even just buying a US$70 dongle.
The fixed broadband ISPs are feeling the heat. The consumers finally have a cheaper alternative and while dongles are no replacement for company internet, even IT departments are buying dongles for employees. These little USB devices come in handy when the company’s fixed radio link goes down.
To see just how much heat the ISPs are feeling, you just need to check the advertising in the press; prices are coming down, Internet packages are being reworked to accommodate low income users, and more attention is being given to Wi-Fi hotspots.
Everything about internet connectivity as we know has been disrupted in a huge way.