Econet appears to be readying 5G rollout

Leonard Sengere Avatar
China 5G base stations 1 million 2020 Uncapped LTE

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.

Econet on Twitter: Breaking through the 4th Rule.

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:

5G Is Going To Disrupt Many Industries, Here Are Some Of Them

At one point the theory spread that 5G caused the pandemic but that was nonsense. You can read about that here:

Zim Telecoms Regulator Dismisses 5G-Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories

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:

Govt says NetOne will soon deploy 5G base stations, here’s why I am not excited

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.


What’s your take?

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  1. Mt5

    “I would rather we stick with 4G
    Personally, I would rather we stuck with 4G instead of wasting money and moving into the 5G arena now. Here is why:

    Average internet speeds can be improved by deploying tech such as LTE-A that promise speeds of 150Mbps. That’s faster than anything on the market right now. About 3 times the speeds you get with NetOne and Econet early in the morning with a 4G tower close by.
    These technlogies mean less capital expenditure as the towers are cheaper. In fact as other countries deploy 4G our MNOs can buy second hand base stations on the cheap and install them in rural areas.
    4G towers cover bigger areas (have larger cells) than 5G. This makes them ideal for our sparsely populated rural areas where people continue to struggle with connectivity.
    Less money on capital expenditure means cheaper data. Maybe this way we will finally see uncapped packages from our traditional MNOs.
    I would rather have a good and stable 4G that delivers what it promises instead of a fancy new useless 5G that doesn’t live up to its billing.” Garikai Dzoma

    1. Mt5

      Its good to have the latest technology but when it comes to delivery of its capabilities unfortunately they dont levelup.
      Imagine having the latest television but having erratic videos display on it

  2. Annoy

    I’m more interested in e-Sim, use of our wearables for workouts without needing to carry the main device or use of 2sim on devices like iPhones with eSim support

  3. IT GURU

    Guys guys we barely have gigabit fibre , let’s not get too excited, we don’t have that global bandwidth to handle 5g
    , If a provider can give us gigabit 4g and or fibre then they should be allowed by potraz to provide 5g till then hold on too your gouts , u r not yet ready for horses , and potraz till service providers can give 10/100 speeds on 3G why should you entertain them

  4. Service Unavailable

    Waste of money and effort. Try get the current services up to a decent standard before wasting more of the apparent limited resources just to try roll something out first. Same as when moving to other countries was more important than getting Zimbabwe’s networks up to scratch.

  5. Angry citizen

    Econet is rubbish , imagine the network speed inmasvingo with 4g I can’t even use YouTube, download a whatsapp picture, or upload anything and am talking about the CBD
    And here they want 5g? These guys are just utter nonsense,

  6. Sagitarr

    Much as I might not be happy with EW service all the time, this is a technology company which is NOT struggling with liquidity hence can safely make a business decision to invest in new tech focused on the future. We just have a challenge where a private company in Zim has far outstripped govt’s capability in shape, form, size, ideas and implementation. Ordinarily, this should be cause for celebration.

  7. Anonymous

    I have wasted 3 Whatsapp bundles with Econet. Impossible to connect. I don’t know how long it takes to activate but I’m pretty sure it’s the conjested network which has always been the case with Econet starting from the 90’s when they were 1st on the scene.

  8. 5Gish

    Our 4G was 3G, so most likely the 5G will be stable 4G. I think what they should push for is stable service as remote applications now require a stable connection

  9. Greg

    What’s the point in super fast internet if the cost of data on Econet is still ridiculous…

  10. Douglas Kaliwoh

    Well, they switched on 5G yesterday, starting with Harare. That is the rat the Techzim writer smelt yesterday.

  11. The Empress

    This is a play written by the good people at Econet and everyone has a part to play. The director will now explain your part in all this.
    Those 5G base stations will be deployed at the various tourist destinations and maybe a few more in the really affluent neighborhoods of Zimbabwe nd they’ll call it a day.
    “OK good afternoon everyone I am the director my name isn’t important just know that I am famous and very rich. I don’t look like the current CEO of Econet holdings, he looks like me and I’m very handsome. But enough about me let us get down to work.”
    The happy tourists!Where are the happy tourists?! OK apparently due to Covid-19 there are no tourists and those that are there don’t want to be shown on camera due to fear of being labeled elitist and being canceled. OK no problem we will just use some stock footage ”
    Econet management stand in the middle of the stage smiling smugly with the prestige of being 1st and having one more reason to show why you are best network in Zimbabwe.(Director whispering to Econet” don’t mess up or I will fire you”)
    The population of Zimbabwe?
    Well for 80% of you,even if you don’t understand what a 5G is. Just smile nd cheer wildly throw in a few dances if you wish just pretend it’s a political rally. (Director shakes his head sadly whilst walking away)

    Those 19% of people who have understand or have more than a vague idea of what 5G truly is. Your job is to clap nd smile but the smiles should be sort of unwilling and show the envy that is eating you up inside.
    The 1%? Well sirs/madams I would never dare make you act or perform wildly or otherwise. Please just sit there and bask in the envy being directed at you by those 19%… (whispering to himself)(the humble bragging of your spoiled children when they post videos of themselves downloading multi gigabyte movies in literally seconds, using our new 5G services will be a great advertisement )
    Netone your job is to stand there with an angry look on your face. Saying to yourself “it was supposed to be my chance” over and over again.
    “Who invited Telecel!? OK ok Telecel yes, yes in theory you are the 3rd MNO and you just want to be involved. OK so why don’t you stand in this dark corner. The confused look on your face is a nice touch oh that’s how you always look.
    Director whispering to themself
    “…is Telecel dead or alive? The smell says its dead, but it also walks and talks although it does that very slowly. This isn’t supposed to be a horror movie. ”
    OK everyone understands what is going right? OK good.

    Lights, Camera, Action!

    1. The Empress

      POTRAZ was unable to attend because it’s a government department it was called back to HQ to assist the government that is currently seized with trying to figure out how to derail the planned roll out of 5G by Econet.