Getting affordable unlimited mobile internet on the go is an absolute necessity and a headache a lot of us have to go through. In Zimbabwe the most likely affordable option will be among Africom, Powertel, Econet, Telecel and ZOL & Mweb.
Connectivity on the go via mobile dongles has seen the entrance and exit of many players in Zimbabweans, some got better, some called it quit prematurely and still to date it has ben an important facet for connectivity.
A “dongle” is a wireless USB adapter that, when inserted into the USB port on your computer or laptop, allows you to connect to the web from anywhere, just as long as there’s a 3G or 4G signal.
There are 2 types of mobile internet connectivity modes in Zimbabwe, our Mobile Network Operators MNO (Econet Netone and Telecel) use GSM network, while the data based operators like Africom, Powertel and ZOL) use Wimax a much cheaper Voice Over Internet Protocol VoIP.
So which one is it, really?
There is hardly any point asking the ISPs themselves about the specifics of the internet they offer. Sometimes you would go an extra mile to try and come up with the right specifications through testings, but can that be a reliable tool to detect the internet speeds as factors like geographical location, time etc. can play a role in the outcome findings.
The ever-increasing desire for ‘internet on the go’ has seen the humble dongle rise in popularity world wide
But are these wireless network devices really worth having, what’s the cost, and are there any catches worth looking out for? The pros and cons of these dongles lie in their affordability, accessibility, durability and speed.
In Zimbabwe, we have a dozen Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and only few of those are familiar with the local consumer market.
Telecel have recently reduced their dongle prices to $25, with unlimited data for the whole month and then $10 per month for 300MB, which makes sense to most consumers in terms of affordability.
Telecel of late have been dishing out some amazing data bundles with competitively low prices ranging from $10 for 160MB, $20 for 400MB, $45 for 1GB and $75 for 2GB, where Telecel subscribers would enjoy double the amount they pay for, credited with 100 percent bonus data.
Coverage & Stability: Telecel fares well as most of their base stations are readily available nationwide.
Well, first the obvious one is if one is not in Harare, Bulawayo and Vic Falls there’s really no point going for a 4G LTE which will cost $90. At $90 you can pay extra for something you will never use. The 3G dongle is going for $28. On performance, for everyday use; email, Facebook, a bit of YouTube, research, Skype etc… 3G is still very capable to deliver so smooth an experience you don’t really need from 4G.
However, Econet Tarrifs on their dongle are fairly expensive charging an average of $1 per every 10mb, on the promotions $20 will buy you 500mb
Coverage & Stability: Econet has very fast internet and national coverage across all cities and towns with 4g, 3G and edge coverage.
The NetOne dongle has been reduced to $35 with free 500MB of data and 50SMS and it comes with amazing internet speeds, ‘Enjoy Amazing Browsing Speed’ is their dongle marketing theme. Their data bundle prices are tabulated below:
Bundle Price Access Period
70MB $3 30 Days
125MB $5 30 Days
285MB $10 30 Days
670MB $20 45 Days
1GB $30 60 days
2GB $50 120 Days
Powertel a CDMA dongle is going for US$35 unlimited data a month at 3mbps, and with that speed, it makes the product very cheap.
Powertel of late have been busy planting fibre cables around the country to boost their network coverage and their dongles are pegged at $30 for an uncapped usage. Their internet speeds have faced some critics. Subscribers where complaining on connectivity and speeds especially from those outside the CBD, while others have spoken highly of the internet it.
Coverage & Stability: Powertel is still smutting from stability issues due to oversubscriptions against few base stations, its coverage only covers few towns and cities and service is being rumoured to have improved , buoyed by complimentary infrastructure being installed.
Africom, a CDMA based service,in February of this year announced that they have extended their popular 4Gig download limit of $25 unlimited and went on an extra mile to split the $25 into smaller $1 units, which would offer a whooping 100mb while $5 offering 600MB valid for one week then, and that was a perfect and enticing deal by Africom.
Needless to say, this is only a promotion due to expire any time soon.
Africom however still suffers from coverage weakness, The marketing manager with Africom Prosper Mutswiri had earlier on confirmed the ubiquitous of their network coverage, “We have expanded coverage in Kwekwe, Gweru, Chegutu, Kadoma, Rusape, Marondera, Masvingo, Vic falls, Harare, Chitungwiza, Mutare and Kariba too.”
Coverage & Stability: Where Africom signal is available, it performs pretty well and the only dongle in Zimbabwe, which when service available, gives the best uplink speed of more than 1mb/s for uploading data.
ZOL,Zimbabwe Online, another ISP an a subsidiary of Liquid Telecoms, running on the Wimax network scrapped $29 uncapped internet entry package with the $59 package.
Their speeds were amazing at Launch offering from real 512Kpbs download and was officially the cheapest and fastest dongle on the market. The new package offers speeds of up to 1 Mbps download with unlimited data access..
Unfortunately ZOL also faced the same fate, it got too crowded for the Wimax service, before they reviewed their prices causing slow connectivity. We have not yet used their dongle service since the price review but their fixed Wimax remains one of the best on the market.
Coverage and Stability: ZOL hinted that they will be covering every area running on the Econet backbone, hence they have the capacity for nation coverage using their sister company Econet to provide Wimax service at National level. We are not sure if they already covering all the econet covered areas, but their perfect presence and coverage in town and cities has been confirmed
So, which Provider is the best?
It depends with the customer really, there is not such a dongle yet that we can call the best in Zimbabwe according these facts, its all about the price that best suits you, the actual speed delievered, how stable the service provider is and more importantly if they at least cover your area.