Telecel Zimbabwe customers have been given access to mobile data services including the internet and e-mail from 13 May 2011 onwards in the final phase of piloting 2.5G/3G GPRS/EDGE/W-CDMA technologies, reports IT NewsAfrica. The latest pilot stage is aimed at testing Telecel’s data services billing system and the national reach of its data services capability. At present, 3G coverage is available to pilot service users with compatible handsets in major urban centres and selected tourist resort areas, while other regions will receive mobile data coverage via GPRS/EDGE. Telecel has been providing free data services to a limited number of customers since the fourth quarter of 2010 as a way of testing its 3G system, and at the end of last year it expanded the pilot group by extending the invitation to more of its high-end users. As reported in CommsUpdate in July 2010, Telecel previously announced that it would introduce GPRS and 3G services in October that year, aiming to become the second cellco in Zimbabwe to do so, behind Econet Wireless. Telecel, the country’s second largest mobile operator by subscribers, acquired 3G frequencies in February 2010, and said that it would have capacity for 50,000 3G subscribers at launch.
The final phase of mobile data testing is not free of charge, and instead Telecel is asking USD0.10 per MB on a pay-as-you-go basis. Instructions on configuring handsets to access the new services are being published in newspaper advertisements, and are also available on Telecel’s website, from call centre staff or at customer centres. A spokesperson said: ‘Feedback from customers will help us to fine tune the service so that we can provide, based on our experience during the pilot project, a first class service when we officially launch our data services … In Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Chinhoyi and some of the tourist resort areas like Nyanga, 3G service is being provided. In other parts of the country connection to the internet will be via GPRS/EDGE.’