Stage two load shedding has been going on for about two weeks now, and with every day a new group or business in the country complains about it. We really don’t need to explain to anyone why any 21st century business gets affected by having no electricity for up to 18 hours a day, but now more inevitable effects of our power situation have arisen. Most notably, a lot of people’s mobile data and even Wi-Max plans have been performing poorly, if working at all. A simple explanation for this is that our base stations or cellphone signal towers obviously run on the same ZESA power grid as everyone else, and when the power gets cut for us, it gets cut for them as well. This used to get mitigated by generators I’m sure, but I don’t think I need to tell you about the country’s fuel situation as well. So now we have multiple signal towers in the country turned off, hence the signal gets to our devices either really weak or barely gets there at all.
Now how bad this situation is depends on which line you use as well as the area you’re in. I have all three from Netone, Econet and Telecel respectively and live in Kuwadzana and Malbereign, frequenting between the CBD and Belvedere for work and school purposes. This isn’t anywhere close to a full sweep of Harare as a city. Yet in that small area I get vastly different performance among the lines depending on where I am. Econet and Netone being the coverage champions they are do perform much better than Telecel, which seemingly falls apart as soon as I’m in Kuwadzana, and still stays relatively poor in other areas with Belvedere being the exception. For some odd reason Telecel actually performs really well there, better than Netone and more comparably to Econet. But that basically is what makes it unreliable, working well only in certain areas which sort of kills the mobile part of mobile data if u think about it. We’ve already mentioned these shortcomings for Telecel before, and the power situation only makes them far more apparent. And as we said, this affects all the mobile networks not just Telecel. While Econet and Netone are performing better in terms of coverage, Econet only really works well if you’re using their 4G bands, while 3G is hit or miss and 2G is a mess in areas like Kuwadzana as well. Netone does seem to have better performance in 2G mode, but don’t give them any crown either. Their service seems to have off days as well.
These performance differences all seem to depend on who has the highest amount of diesel at their disposal in order to feed their generators, and with things getting tougher each day for the whole country even three of the biggest companies in Zim are having their performance affected. It only adds to a sense of hopelessness the whole country seems to be feeling and to say we have answers would be a lie we wouldn’t want to tell. We do hope that some ways forward can be made for all three mobile network providers. After all, we’re giving them our money for these services. None of us are on a data charity program, so if this where to persist we’re near certain people are going to be complaining about it soon. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t come to that.
Have mobile networks been terrible in your areas as well? Tell us how bad it has been, especially if you live outside of Harare as we were only able to cover Harare areas. You can live your thoughts in the comments below and on social media.