NetOne takes lead on national LTE rollout, now has 45 active base stations

Nigel Gambanga Avatar

We recently mentioned that Econet was opening up its LTE services to mobile devices, something that it had previously restricted to 4G/LTE dongles. Econet was the first mobile operator to introduce the fast broadband service locally, but now the lead seems to have been taken by NetOne.

The State owned mobile operator poured $200 million into an LTE-focused network expansion project which has gained momentum over the past year thanks to the financial commitment from the project’s backers (the Chinese Government).

Thanks to this investment, NetOne has already established a national LTE presence, with 45 active base stations and another 15 scheduled for activation in the short term. 11 of the 4G sites are in Bulawayo and 19 in Harare, with rest spread out among the other provinces.

These current stats on 4G base staion deployment and the continued rollout that NetOne is involved in places it in the lead in terms of LTE, something which will likely have a huge impression in terms of long term investment in its network. More activity in terms of broadband will be focues on getting as many subscribers as possible to tap into LTE, a process which will come with ist own dyanamics.

While Econet, which previously had the only LTE presence in Zimbabwe, might have increased its investment to match the actiavation of LTE for mobile devices, it likely acted as any listed concern would. This means that it will have maintained a limited investment because of market realities such as receding revenues, limited smartphone penetration and an even more limited 4G/LTE device presence in Zimbabwe.

NetOne, as a State owned enterprise with the benefit of financiung secured through national trade deals, is free of some of the immediate considerations that Econet would need to carry for its move into LTE.

Is this a hit or miss for NetOne?

There is a huge and primal benefit for NetOne subscribers that can access LTE – Super fast connections. With a more visible LTE presence on a national level, that ought to be a huge value proposition for NetOne broadband. Not to mention the other investmenst around LTE that NetOne can explore because of fast internet speeds. This thinking is what probably attracted other potential investors in LTE.

However, like Econet already figure out, there are still some realities that NetOne will have to face. We have questioned the rationale this investment in LTE at this stage in the telecoms operators’ cycle for a host of reasons.

LTE won’t be snapped so quickly in the short to medium term. Its effective use will rely on strategies around device dstriobution and partnerships that make that a reality.

Then there’s the huge fact that mobile broadband is still expensive. Some comments on the previous stories on LTE highlight some people’s concerns that the faster speed translates to an even faster usage of very expensive internet. Who knows, maybe as a parastatal NetOne will be in a position to price its broadband competitively, just to match the fast user experience of LTE?

Whatever the case, NetOne has just made a strong impression in LTE right now and any mobile broadband user that wants to give 4G speeds a shot, in any of the provinces, should give their nearest NetOne shop a visit.

NetOne has provided us with an LTE line which will be used for a speed test. You can look out for the results of that review and a comparison with Econet LTE speeds. 


  1. fourwallsinaroom

    Its been an hour where is the speed test result!
    Where are the base stations located
    is VoLTE enabled yet
    What band is their LTE / What frequency.
    How does regular joe subscribe.

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      Where is the speed test!!!!

      1. macd chip

        There is no Zesa

        Or its not showing desired results..

        1. Cool

          Or thy r abusing it since its free kkkk u knw he zimboz act when they get a free product for one day ???

          1. Cool

            U knw hw*

            1. fourwallsinaroom

              Techzim, do you need an LTE device? Maybe ndopane challenge kikiki

  2. fourwallsinaroom

    And yes LTE will be snapped up rather quickly by corporate entities.
    I know for a fact that some firms do not blink twice when it comes to data access.
    Boss needs to VPN into the office from home, WiMAX is not working.. he is calling his FD so that the FD reigns fire on the IT guy. IT guy says we need an LTE enabled laptop or a dongle for the boss to use while we wait for Fibroniks to be installed.
    In that scenario paper work gets signed yesterday.
    There is also average Joe who has had an LTE device, maybe its the LG g3 or a Sony Xperia C3 LTE and because he can will use LTE. Just because its faster doesnt mean usage will go up drastically. If am downloading gmail app, the fact that I can do it in 1sec vs 10minutes does not change the fact that the app is 5Mb or whatever size it is.
    When Econet 4g dongles had a $250 purchase price and 2.5c per Mb with a public IP how many directors purchased that device because it worked. I know of quite a few, which is why up until today Legacy Econet WiMAX where you pay direct to econet still exists.
    Having worked for an ISP I also see situations where companies come and pay for 7 executives for the year.
    I wouldnt be so quick to dismiss LTE given the number of iPads in particular, the Galaxy and Xperia Tablets that are been used for work.
    Take a look at roaming figures if companies can pay for roaming why not LTE at a per Mb rate. Most of them already have the devices.

  3. Richard

    They are using 1.8Ghz if i am not mistaken. They are rolling out a total of 300 base station from the huawei contract, however since in harare and nothern region they use nokia networks gear i dont know how many base station they are rolling out. Since 15 base stations have been established in other provinces i guess now LTE is now available in these areas: marondera, bindura, gweru, chinhoyi, gwanda, plumtree, masvingo town, mutare urban, kariba, hwange, vic falls, nyanga , kwekwe, norton, kadoma and most probably chitown since netone strategy is to always start with urban areas and provincial capitals. In harare i think kopje plaza, zesa hq, rainbow towers, kopje , telone main exchange, hre airport are among the 19 base stations.

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      Thanks Richard

  4. macd chip

    This is poorly structured piece which feel more like an advert for Telone! If you wanted to compare with Econet, say so and provide us with figures.

    LTE is as fast as the slowest link point! And the slowest link point is the undersea cable connection.

    How much bandwidth does NetOne hav connected to undersea? When using Econet, their uplink provider is Liquid Tel, who is the uplink provider for NetOne?

    If the network traffic stays within NetOne network, then one might enjoy the LTE experience but people do browse and watch videos which are not hosted locally.

    This means NetOne LTe will be used as access network to get to international hosted servers, and if their uplink provider is Powertel, they l rest my case.

    1. observer

      spot on couldnt have said better myself!

  5. Cool

    Here is my prediction local server netone 40s mbps & econet 47-50s mbps , international speeds netone 30s mbps & econet 10-20mbps. And what’s yours

    1. macd chip

      Mine is:

      Econet 70mbps

      Netone 15mbps

    2. fourwallsinaroom

      at 1800 max speed you can hit is 70~ishMbps so i am going to say Net*one peak 50Mbps
      Econet is already 21Mbps on 3g so Econet will give benefit of the doubt and say upto***70Mbps (notice the upto!)

  6. Richard

    Lets wait and see the results. What are the techzim guys doing with that Lte line? Are they downloading movies or something whilst we wait for the results kkkkk

  7. Richard

    Last time in September 2013 Techzim did a test to a server in Uk and econet clocked 5mbps download and 8mbps upload. A test again to a server in Joburg showed a download speed of 23mbps download and 22mbps download. I must emphasise that this was a second series of tests in vic falls. Before that econet had registered 32mbps download speed to a harare liquid server and that was in august. You might want to revisit those articles here but that was shortly after launch and subscribers had not yet been added to the LtE network. It will be interesting to know what speed Econet is clocking now but that time the second test was not impressive. There are fifferent contributing factors to speed and one of them is network gear. Zte gear in southern zimbabwe cannot match ericsson gear in the nothern part of zimbabwe. Similarly netone uses nokia networks gear in nothern zim whilst huawei is the supplier in the southern part of zimbabwe. Also bandwidth especially the fibre backbone and the capacity of transmission systems also contribute a lot and of course power cuts that are wreaking havoc here.

    1. macd chip

      I really do not get this idea of mix and match of network gear! What is the benefit of it. I struggle to see it especially when it comes to support.

    2. fourwallsinaroom

      You know I totally agree, I stay in an area where I see 5 base stations. Pockets Hill and xxxx are the two that I know by name. The strange thing, do a speedtest to xxxx (lest they cut the privilege) and local i get 2.7 – 3Mbps same account same device do a speed test to pockets and I get a flat 1Mbps no matter what time of the day. I can never push that link beyone 1Mbps. But if I login using my WiMax account pockets gives me a good 2Mbps maybe even three.

      1. Richard

        Is it the same operator with the same base stations or different operators?

        1. fourwallsinaroom

          Well the base stations are owned by econet. ZOL handles new connections now. So scenario one i am using and my password but i get different profiles on different base stations. but if i use my econet login the experience is consistent across the board. 1 device same position just changing usernames / enabling disabling frequencies

      2. mupari

        because pockets hill is on a tower, and is the location of one of their technical offices, it tends to absorb more users and traffic, as such your throughput becomes less. They do not cap data speeds on basestations.

        1. fourwallsinaroom

          not true
          Packages below

          Plus Up to 1Mbps $49
          Enhanced Up to 2Mbps $99
          Ultra Up to 3Mbps $129

        2. fourwallsinaroom

          Whats more likely is they have access profiles there to deal with the number of users accessing each sector

  8. Richard

    Having one network vendor is suicidal. All over the world even big operators tend to have more than one network vendor. The danger of one network vendor is that sometimes a vendor will stop manufacturing gear like what Motorola did , and also the vendor may inflate prices and sinve he is the only supplier you have no option than to buy from him. Two vendors make it possible to compare network perfomances between two gears . It also stimulates competition and prices will come down since the other vendor acts as a bargaining tool when negotiating for lowering of prices. However three vendors are not feasible as there comes with them huge operation and maintenance costs.

  9. fourwallsinaroom

    so much for that speed test… nigel is no busy writing about ecobank 😉

    1. cool

      it was better 4 him nt to mention anything about LTE speed test ( useless) ,m gonna contact netone 2morrow to get my line 4g lte active .

      1. fourwallsinaroom

        Let me know how it goes please. I would like to do the same. The number of times i have now visited this page looking for an update is ridiculous. This is worse than click bate.

  10. Dasbom

    To be honest LTE in Zim does not make economic sense rite know. Every MNO is worldwide is trying to cut costs and deal with OTT players. Yet NetOne with all its brains decides to run two separate networks. Improved speeds will increase QoS for OTT players services . LTE only make sense if they want a 100 percent coverage otherwise they have handled the cost cutting ball to Econet. Disruptive technology in a small economy is generally not the rite strategy. Lets wait and see

    1. Richard

      I honestly think we should move along with the latest technology. In the near future Operators will make more revenues through corporate subscriptions and some individuals who want a fast broadband connection. Next door our neighbour South Africa has an established 4G LTE network.

  11. Nyasha

    I have used this LTE and I have to say I was impressed by the speeds and perfomance, dai vakasazoporonga kumberi

    1. Richard

      How was your experience with Lte and where were you accessing the service. Did u do a speed test and if so what where the results?

  12. UGK

    The typos are killing me.