Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest telecommunications company, yesterday launched high-speed Fifth Generation (5G) mobile broadband technology, in partnership with global technology infrastructure suppliers Ericsson and ZTE.
This makes Econet the first mobile network operator to offer the service in the country, starting with the capital city, Harare.
Econet, which has invested over US$3 billion in infrastructure development since its inception, plans to roll out 5G to the rest of the country during the course of the year, after it was allocated test spectrum in multiple bands by the Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) for 5G technology services.
Announcing the launch of the technology at an event in Harare, the company said initial 5G service would be rolled out for individual and enterprise customers in Harare.
Econet chief executive, Dr Douglas Mboweni, said the 5G rollout was an important milestone for the company, and was a critical enabler for Zimbabwe’s drive towards a fully digital economy.
“The 5G technology will transform the way we all live and work, offering customers significantly greater network capacity, ultra-low latency and super-fast broadband speeds that open vast possibilities for our individual, business and enterprise customers,” he said.
The new technology will yield far higher speeds, up to 100 times faster than earlier broadband technologies.
“The technology allows several devices to be connected at the same time, allowing for new automation possibilities, seamless communication and interconnectivity between multiple smart devices, commonly known as the internet of things (IoT),” Dr Mboweni said.
Speaking at the launch of the service, Econet chief operating officer Mr Kezito Makuni, said the launch of 5G will allow the company to meet growing demand for data and complement its growing 4G network, boosting overall mobile connectivity for Econet customers.
“Our 5G network will offer new use cases while at the same time helping us meet existing demand for mobile broadband services,” Mr Makuni said.
The launch of 5G cements Econet’s position as the technology and telecoms leader in Zimbabwe, where the company was first in launching 3G and 4G services.
Industry regulator Potraz’s sector performance reports show that the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed company has long been a leader in infrastructure investment in 2G, 3G, and 4G.
Potraz director-general, Dr Gift Machengete, who was the guest of honour at the launch event, commended Econet for bringing 5G to the Zimbabwean market at a time when the demand for data and telecom services remained very high.
He said the introduction of the super-fast technology in Zimbabwe meant the “future has finally arrived”, adding that he expected the technology to herald industrial and societal transformation.
“5G indeed is ‘The Technology’; it is the nervous system of the digital economy, where everything whether biological, mechanical or chemical will have to be connected somehow, anywhere, anytime, with zero delay and almost unlimited capacity,” he said.
He noted, however, that for the country to enjoy the full benefits of 5G – which include e-Health, smart transport and logistics, smart energy networks, smart agriculture and smart retail – the telecommunications sector will require foreign currency support for network expansion and to procure critical core network software.
“Because 5G will be an overlay network, requiring a new cycle of network rollout with demand for funding in forex, the sector will need to be prioritised in the allocation of foreign currency.
“On this note I invite the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to pay special attention to the communication sector, and actively support 5G rollout through timeous allocation of foreign currency resources to the sector,” Dr Machengete said.