In a recent email, ZOL has said that those who sell their lines to other parties must inform them of the change of ownership. There has been a recent rise in the black market for “unlocked” ZOL (technically Liquid Intelligent) lines all over social media as new lines sold by ZOL are now “geo-locked”.

According to ZOL if you sell or buy an LTE line from a third party you need to follow this procedure:

  • First the registred subscriber/owner of the line must send a signed affidavit, confirmed by a Commissioner of Oaths to [email protected] stating:
    • The fact that theyare selling their line
    • The ID, Full Name, Physical Address and Contact number of the new owner
  • The ZOL sales team will then contact the new subscriber/owner who will then have to provide the following documents:
    • A signed service request document provided by ZOL and required to be signed by each new customer
    • A copy of the person’s valid ID which can be in the form of a licence/national ID card or passport
    • A proof of residence which can be:
      • A utility bill e.g. TelOne or ZESA bill showing the new owner’s name
      • An affidavit showing the new address and confirmed by a commissioner of oaths
      • A lease agreement
      • A letter from your employer showing your address
    • The GPS coordinates where the connection will be used

If you do this the line will most likely now be geo-locked too, just like the new lines. Why anyone would go through this to get their line geo-locked is beyond me.

Why is there a black market for old ZOL Wibroniks lines?

There are many ways to get online but one of the best and affordable ways is via ZOL Wibroniks. Initially sold as a mobile LTE way to connect to the internet, now Wibroniks is now considered a fixed LTE solution. When you sign up these days they ask you for the GPS coordinates of where you plan to use the connection.

Once they have it they then go on to lock your SIM card to the base station in that neighbourhood. This means that you can only connect to that base station and no other. If you try to use the SIM card in another location it will not be able to connect to the internet.

This is normally not an issue. ZOL started doing this during the first pandemic lockdown of March-April 2020 as a way to combat congestion at some of its base stations. You see before the pandemic people’s movements were not restricted and that tended to even out the distribution of ZOL LTE users across their base stations. The lockdown meant that suddenly more users than planned were using their LTE connections in suburbs as opposed to the CBD. This created congestion there.

To better able to plan for capacity at each base station ZOL decided to turn their Wibroniks connections into fixed LTE connections. This means that they can either sell more units or stop selling more units depending on the demand for services versus the capacity of a given base station. From their point of view, this is awesome.

From the customer’s point of view, this is annoying. Most people still don’t understand that even though their CPE (i.e. LTE modem) is portable their internet connection can now only be used at the given address/roughly in the same neighbourhood. Worse still, if the single base station you are locked to has a technical issue you might not even be able to connect even though the rest of the ZOL network might be up and running.

To get around this, some people now sell “unlocked” lines that can be used anywhere. There is nothing special about these lines. These are just lines that were bought by people before the “geo-lock” initiative from ZOL. That is before April-March 2020. These are truly mobile LTE lines in that you can take them anywhere and they will connect to any ZOL base station.

The problem is the only way this works is if you don’t tell ZOL that you are selling your old line or you are buying an old SIM card. If you do, they will just lock it.