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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: October 29 2010 »

Zimbabwe entered a new digital era last week Friday when the largest mobile phone network Econet Wireless launched its mobile broadband package available to their estimated 4.5 million subscribers.

Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni said this was the most ambitious project they had undertaken since 1998 when the company was launched adding the broadband would be pivotal in reconstructing the country's economy.

Reporting from Harare our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said three broadband packages were being offered; "On the Go" for customers on the move using internet capable handsets and laptops, the "@Home" package for home users surfing for leisure, school and light business and "@Work" for business users.

Muchemwa said customers were asked to send a blank text message to 145 and a confirmation would then be sent by Econet confirming if the line has been activated. Subscribers can then buy internet 'bundles' ranging from 1 to 1000 megabytes to allow them to connect to the internet. Each megabyte costs 50 US cents although many customers were given a free promotional 100 megabytes.

The project has cost Econet close to US$100 million and covers many of the major cities. Previous attempts at launching the service in September last year resulted in an over-subscription and Econet had to suspend offering the service to new customers until the necessary upgrade had been completed.

While the economic advantages are obvious, Muchemwa reports that activists are excited at the prospect of the technology helping to discourage rights abuses. 'Anyone with a camera or video phone can capture incidents of political violence and within minutes the whole world will be watching,' he said.

Cost however will remain the main stumbling block for the service to take root effectively. At 50 US cents per megabyte, many people will struggle to afford the luxury of sending and receiving large files. Early signs are promising though with Muchemwa saying in the first day of the launch hundreds of people in Harare could be seen glued to their phones and laptops surfing the internet.

(Source: SW Radio Africa / balancingact-africa news update Issue 528)
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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« Reply #1 on: October 29 2010 »

Zimbabwe Parliament Ratifies U.S.$45 Million Loan for NetOne

Last Wednesday Wednesday Zimbabwes Parliament ratified a US$45 million loan from the Import Export Bank of China for NetOne's second (2G) and third generation (3G) network rollout project set to transform the information communication technology (ICT) industry in the country through connection of the Zimbabwean optic fibre-network to the undersea cable in the Mozambican channel.

Minister of Finance Tendai Biti moved the motion for the ratification of the loan that was contracted on June 1 in Harare between the government and the Chinese bank. The loan has a grace period of five years during which period only the interest and no principal is payable by the borrower to the lender, and goods, technologies and services to be purchased by the proceeds of the loan should preferably come from China.

Biti urged parliament to ratify the loan saying it was good for the nation which still lags behind in technological advancement when compared to the region and the world. The minister said: "Zimbabwe is 23 years behind in technological infrastructure development. The loan will enable us to increase capacity to move to third and fourth generation phone technology (3G and 4G). The country's use of ICT leaves a lot to be desired. There are only 371,000 fixed telephone lines serving only 3% of the population while only 1.4 million people have access to the Internet. We are ranked 132 out of 135 on the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness on Report on technology readiness.

The minister reassured parliament that the loan would not be abused as in the past because of the manner in which the agreement was structured. "Huawei Technologies of China will manage and implement the roll out project. This project will have maximum impact on the rural communities. NetOne will only be a partner in the project but will not have direct access to the resources," the minister said.

The loan is also expected to put NetOne on a good footing to compete against its main competitors locally. Econet leads the pack in subscribers with a massive 4.1 million subscribers, followed by Telecel with 1.,27million and lastly NetOne with 1.1 million subscribers.

Biti said the government was considering offers from international companies that were willing to become strategic partners to NetOne when it is finally privatised in the near future. "The cabinet has agreed on privatising state telecoms utility. Privatisation is on course and I cannot mention the potential suitors now suffice to say some big players on the continent are sniffing around," he said.
(Source: Zimbabwe Independent / balancingact-africa)
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