Devil in the details: What these service providers won’t tell you – Powertel

Victor Mukandatsama Avatar

I really didn’t know much about Powertel, until I ran across their Scholar Pack unlimited bundles which I could not qualify for, by not being a student of course. I do however have a brother who is at the university, and you know how the story ends.

The new promo of unlimited data from 8pm to 6am, I discovered, is less generous. You need to buy at least $2.50 worth of data to get the unlimited access valid for 24 hours. This is not a bad deal at face value; after all internet is faster when there is lesser traffic and I can download video editions of my lectures for the whole semester.

How could this go wrong

Powertel offers a basic $2.50 voucher equivalent to 100 Megabytes and unlimited access from 8pm to 6am. Of course, the only way this is cheaper than Telone’s WiFi is the fact that you get unlimited access in the later hours when the rest of mankind is asleep. Just one hiccup though. There are actually no $2.50 vouchers in the street. Their vouchers are $1, $2, $5, $10 and $20 and so forth. You may end up having to buy $3 worth of data or visit their branch where they can punch $2.50 directly into the system.

It gets interesting. Though Powertel airtime is sold in several outlets including select ZESA, OK Zimbabwe shops,  service stations, via EcoCash and Zimswitch Vpayments, your purchase does not immediately translate to unlimited data. You will, in fact, need to call their customer care during working hours or visit a Powertel branch to activate it.

It is clear, well, predictable, that a person buying $2.50 worth of data is most likely buying unlimited data rather than 100 MB which is insufficient for an AVG Antivirus update for starters.

I did this on a familiar day and spend the 100 MB without even considering it. It was on the 30th of April and, unfortunately, that night there was a serious blackout for the entirety of the night. Powertel insists that they have batteries as a contingent to the erratic ZESA electricity supply despite the fact that each time there is no ZESA there is no connectivity and I was unable, as a result, to take advantage of my unlimited data privilege.

As any regular customer would expect, I suggested that the unlimited access be availed on another day. I was shocked when the customer service officer insisted bluntly that they were not responsible for ZESA and they cannot control power supply.

I persisted on the matter, going as far as looking up the conditions of service / contract of sale of the SIM and modem for a disclaimer that says,

If your data validity expires because of unavailability of electricity to power our boosters, we are not liable.

This is when they pulled the “it’s a bonus, not a privilege” card. In other words, they are saying even though their promo says for data purchases you get unlimited access at night, they have the discretion to give it or to pull it. This is what they don’t tell you.


  1. warchief

    so your saying it’s $2.50 unlimited a night?

  2. 4eyedkimo

    i had fun and sleep less nights wit this promotion i got a constant speed of about 250-300kbs (probably becoz every1 in my hood quit powertel in Octbr last year)i realy hated the fact tat to convert to data u had to b on line.75+gig of data download by the time promotion ended