Econet, Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile network, has launched uncapped internet bundles for the first time since 2009. Back then, they stopped their $20 per month unlimited 3G deal. The new bundles are part of Econet’s SmartBiz Data line. Users pick an internet speed pack to suit their needs. They then pay monthly fees based on the speed. The packages that Econet is offering make it the cheapest uncapped internet service provider in Zimbabwe-well sort of.

Econet SmartBiz Poster

Technically Econet does not offer the cheapest uncapped package with its lowest price being US$70 per month for the SmartBiz 5 package. Utande’s uncapped StarterMax LTE package is priced at US$60 per month. That is like comparing Apples to Oranges because while Utande’s package is aimed at mostly home users Econet’s SmartBiz package is tailored to businesses. Econet’s SmartBiz package is therefore the cheapest business-oriented package. You can expect to get a more consistent experience when you sign up for this compared to Utande, especially during business peak operating hours. The closest comparable package is Liquid Home’s Nano Office package which is selling for three times as much.

SmartBiz packages and their prices

If you want to sign up for SmartBiz you need to be aware of the other costs involved and how this service works. This is a 5G-based service with a 4G backup. Econet has a solid 4G infrastructure in most cities and towns with patch 5G coverage. To get connected Econet is selling an outdoor 5G router for an eye-watering price of US$470 plus a US$85 once-off installation fee. That’s a total of US$560 for equipment and installation. That is Starlink kind of pricing and most people will no doubt think that when they asked to shell out this much.

Once you have paid this you have to choose from one of the following packages:

  • SmartBiz 5 which gives you speeds of up to 5Mbps and costs US$70
  • SmartBiz 10 which gives you speeds of up to 10Mbps and costs US$99
  • SmartBiz 20 which has speeds of up to 20 Mbps and costs US$259
  • SmartBiz 50 which costs US$450 and has speeds of up to 50 Mbps

A fair usage policy (FUP) applies to all these packages although as we said these packages are aimed at businesses so the terms are bound to be usage-friendly.

Good for the home user but mostly for business

These are reasonably priced packages but the biggest hurdle for the average home user is the initial equipment costs. This is where Econet will struggle to make inroads into the home market. Businesses who are paying hundreds of dollars a month for lesser connections such as Liquid Home’s WibroniX might however be tempted given the long-run savings they stand to make. Besides it is always good to have a failover connection in case of a fibre break or some other outage.

As already pointed out, the equipment costs are quite close to what Starlink is charging. Econet does have impressive LTE coverage but that is nowhere near the 100% that Starlink has. For those who don’t care that Starlink is not yet officially in Zimbabwe, it means Starlink wins. You get to pay the same amount for equipment and installation but get more speeds for less each month. There is also the issue of uncertainty. While Starlink has made some changes to their prices it is here in Zimbabwe where we can expect to see the most turbulence. We are always one statutory instrument away from another massive price hike even in USD terms.

What Econet can do to sweeten the pot

Econet is arguably already the country’s biggest internet service provider. They have never really bothered with the fixed internet market. They are part of the group that includes Liquid Home was not a big deal to them. The company will probably make good sales when it comes to businesses but home users will balk at the equipment cost. To sweeten the deal Econet can either provide cheaper MiFi, Indoor Modems or even SIM only deals to allow those with compatible phones to get in on the fun. You can expect this to happen months or a year from now once they finish skimming this layer of eager customers.