The largest mobile network operator in Zimbabwe kept its cards close to the chest. For a while, it looked like NetOne would be the first carrier to rollout 5G in the country. The govt announced that NetOne would be deploying 5G base stations last September. While we wait to see how that will unfold, Econet looks set to announce something huge regarding 5G shortly.
You have no doubt seen the not-so cryptic images plastered on Econet’s social media.
There are other similar images, all drawing attention to the number of 5.
One says: Light it up Zimbabwe 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Another says: Always putting you first, to the power of 5.
You get the picture. Unless I’m missing something here and 5 is Strive Masiyiwa’s favourite number, this is all referring to the 5th generation of mobile network technology. An official announcement of some sort should clear it all up soon. All these social media posts were posted today meaning they are ready for us to start having conversations about this advancement.
What’s the big deal with 5G?
We have talked about 5G a lot. You can read about some of the use cases of the new and faster mobile network tech here:
At one point the theory spread that 5G caused the pandemic but that was nonsense. You can read about that here:
The three types of 5G
There is: mmWave high band 5G which offers the fastest speeds but these waves are easily blocked and so one has to be close to a cell tower and may need to be in line of sight with no building or other obstacle in between the device and the tower. For this type of 5G, Econet would need to deploy many, many towers/transmitters. But this millimetre wave type allows for speeds up to 10 times those of 4G, theoretically allowing users to download a 4GB file in 32 seconds. That would be awesome.
There is mid band 5G (about 6 times faster than 4G) and low band 5G which can be 20% faster than 4G. These bands can travel farther and can penetrate more obstacles than the faster mmWave. It’s all about the balance in the end.
I would imagine low band 5G is what Econet will be rolling out. However, at 20% faster than 4G should we be excited? As a lover of tech, I am excited even though 5G is probably not what we really need in Zimbabwe. As it is, very few are even enjoying the true potential of 4G. Read more about why about 5G is not that exciting for Zimbabweans here:
We wait to see what 5 is all about
I don’t believe it will be long, we will know soon enough what 5 is all about. If indeed is referring to 5G, we will found out which type of 5G it is. Or maybe they will be gifting iPhone 5’s to some of their loyal customers. Econet won’t tease us for too long.
How extensive will this 5th Generation infrastructure be? Especially at launch.
Recall that in the third quarter of 2021, there wasn’t a single 5G tower in Zimbabwe. Potraz is yet to tell us what happened in the fourth quarter of 2021. So we don’t really know what has happened in the 5 months since September 2021. Will the next telecommunications reports show a spike in 5G base stations? Unlikely.
With the forex shortages Econet has faced along with Telecel and NetOne, and the high cost of 5G network infrastructure, I don’t see how they could possibly cover a significant area of the country in just 5 months. We will likely see coverage in select highly populated, highly affluent or strategic locations for the time being.