Ecoweb WiMAX launch imminent; rival Aquiva making similar moves

10 May 2010

ISP Ecoweb, a subsidiary of Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator Econet Wireless, has successfully completed testing and optimisation of a WiMAX wireless broadband network spanning more than 100 base stations in the country’s main business centres, according to Isaac Chaza, the firm’s general manager. Chaza said the WiMAX network is capable of carrying IP-based mobile, nomadic and fixed voice, video and data services, whilst the technology is also suitable for use as backhaul for Econet’s mobile network, and is aimed at meeting ‘enormous’ demand for data services. The deployment of WiMAX across the country is envisaged to provide a high speed mobile internet access platform for businesses, public sector clients and consumers using laptop/netbook PCs and smartphones, and is also expected to complement Econet’s existing 3G W-CDMA and 2.5G GPRS mobile services. Econet told Reuters it will spend USD300 million this year to expand its voice and data services.

Meanwhile, Aquiva Wireless, a start-up Zimbabwean broadband provider, has awarded Huawei Technologies a USD7.2 million contract to deploy a WiMAX-based wireless access network. Government-backed newspaper The Herald reports that the planned network will consist of 92 base stations covering the country’s largest cities, whilst Aquiva also expects to sign a USD3.6 million contract with SEACOM for capacity on the newly built submarine cable via a terrestrial link through South Africa to the Zimbabwean border at Beitbridge. In September 2009 CommsUpdate reported that the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) had granted new ‘Class A’ ISP licences (allowing data transmission, internet access and VoIP telephony services) to eight applicants including Aquiva and Ecoweb, and two months later Aquiva tendered supply contracts for a fibre-optic cable transmission network. The company’s website is inviting residential and business customers to sign up for broadband access based on WiMAX, fibre-optics and ADSL technologies. The site also advertises VoIP, business data solutions and video calling.