ECONET Wireless Zimbabwe chief commercial and customer services officer Stanley Henning recently revealed that the company would not be slowing down on the implementation of 4G technology in Zimbabwe, but rather were now looking ahead to 5G technology.
We had recently said that although the move is perfectly good, it may be premature for the Zimbabwean market which, by all accounts, still needs reliable 3G service, but at times are left only with Edge or GPRS for basic connectivity.
Econet should forget about 5G for now and perfect 3G first.
When asked during an exclusive TechnoMag interview why Econet would want to run 4G or speculate on 5G when we still did not have 3G fully covering Zimbabwe, Henning said all the main centres in Zimbabwe were already fully covered by 3G technology.
“Currently, we have slightly more than 20 sites already running the long term evolution, (LTE) and we about to double the sites according the customer demands, the chances of beating the 100% demands are possible,” he said.
“Because we do not have 4G phones or LTE-enabled phones readily available in Zimbabwe, the alternative is a 4G dongle and a simcard.”
We also questioned whether Econet going that direction in Zimbabwe would be a profitable move or sustainable.
“We all want to be profitable and successful in our business and sometimes it does not make sense to do something that is not profitable. But if our clients require a service, and these are requirements from the nation that has Internet penetration which is higher than most African countries, we are obliged to deliver,” Henning said.
“The cost is secondary to the need of implementation. The world is already talking about 5G, we need to run 4G fully first for our Zimbabwean market and start working towards 5G.”
Officially, Econet also said that they were not rolling out 4G voice in Zimbabwe, but just data connectivity for now.
Henning also highlighted that the actual speed which their equipment can reach will be 14 megabits per second (mb/s), although the maximum potential reach is 21mb/s.
Zimbabwe currently has been enjoying an average best of about 4mb/s from most broadband service provider.
Asked whether this was a good business model for Econet to be offering such a costly model, Henning said the country was ready and costs would come down in the near future, but they would have to start implementing the technology even at cost.
The idea I guess with Econet is that they will need to lead the game and be proactive instead of pushing the last minute rush when everything proves to be ready — they are setting the pace.
Buoyed by their high speed fibre network backbone from their subsidiary Liquid Telecom, Econet Wireless is set to be a step ahead as they can easily support the new 4G capable base station with the already laid fibre infrastructure.
A major setback for the LTE or 4G technology has been the bandwidth spectrum.
The current high spectrum forces service providers to install many base station t serve the available frequency range, a case which would then make it expensive to cover even smaller areas.
The entry of such high speeds in Zimbabwe will see the nation’s gross domestic prodct increasing as telecommunication is a fundamental aspect of our economy.
While these great speeds are highly commendable, Zimbabweans are still yearning for basic Internet connectivity, even on mobile broadband, with some Internet service providers (ISP) being blamed for sleeping on the job, forcing subscribers to go on for long with intermittent Internet connectivity.
The cost of data access in Zimbabwe is still averagely high.
In cases where one gets unlimited connectivity, the cost is still an inhibiting factor or or the ISP will greatly turn down on speed should you become data hungry, forcing you to slow down on the unlimited data package.
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