Welcome back mate!
Information about Zimbabwean Mobile operators, and mobile phones will be the topic today. (I couldn’t think of an exciting introduction that’s why the intro is super-brief).
Before we get started, let’s learn a few new Shona words:
Yakadhakwa – It is not working properly
Bango – a really good phone e.g. an Iphone (Android
guys…just accept it. IOs is just better.)
Mbudzi – a phone with limited features. Some call them
“dumb” phones. A very good example is the Nokia 3310.
So which mobile operators (networks) do we have in Zimbabwe?
We have 3 main mobile operators in Zimbabwe, and these are: Telecel, Econet, and NetOne. These use the GSM specification (I am yet to meet anyone who uses a CDMA smart phone in this country). All the three networks have 2G, 3G and 4G.
Zimbabwe Number Format for mobile networks
The mobile operators/networks use the 07 prefix. Econet uses 077/078, NetOne uses 071, and Telecel uses 073 Let me give a few examples
Typical Econet Number: (+263) 777 124 233; (+263) 787 344 233
Typical NetOne Number: (+263) 717 124 233; (+263) 716 344 233
Typical Telecel Number: (+263) 733 124 233; (+263) 734 344 233
Which mobile operator is the most reliable?
Well this depends on where you live. In some areas,
one network provider will have the best signal and others will have weaker
signals, and in some areas, none of the network providers will have a good signal.
I have a bias towards NetOne (because it is just awesome), but you first need
to find out where you are going to spend most of your time before coming to a
I usually advise people to use NetOne for data,
Econet for voice calls, and to avoid using Telecel.
In town either NetOne or Econet is usually a good
choice (for voice calls and data).
In sparsely populated areas (such as in the rural
areas), NetOne is your best bet (for voice calls and data).
I am neither discouraging nor am I encouraging
anyone to follow this advice. This is my humble opinion, which might be wrong,
but that is the formula that I have been using ever since I got my phones.
How do I get a line, and where?
Well, getting a line is pretty easy. Here’s how a typical local gets a line:
- Visit your
nearest shop (e.g. if you want to get an Econet line, visit the branch closest
to where you currently are)
- Tell the
friendly guard that you would love to purchase a line. He will usher you to the
queue for new lines, and give you papers to fill your details in. These are
usually your National Identity Card Number (ID Number), and your Residential
- Produce a copy
of your ID (black and white photocopy of your ID). Some shops even scan the ID
- Pay the amount
required for you to get a new line (this usually cost less than the equivalent
of 1 US dollar).
The customer service representative will activate the line, write down the number (so that you can share it with others), and give you a SIM starter pack. This contains a SIM Card, the Pin numbers, and the PUK numbers. The SIM cards being given nowadays are cut in such a way that they can be used as: ordinary SIM cards (used in Nokia 3310s), micro SIM cards (used in older smartphones), and nano SIM cards (used in the more recent smart phones).
This process can take up to 10 minutes.
TIP – If you want to get your line quickly, go to a
shop that is a bit outside the CBD. The probability of joining a long queue
will be greatly reduced, and the customer service is usually a bit better.
What do I do after getting a new line?
You need to recharge it so that you start communicating with your friends. Also, set up your apn so that you access the internet. If you are using an Econet line, Econet will automatically set up your device so no worries.
After that you need to know the codes for recharging, and buying bundles. Use this link which has a comprehensive list of available USSD codes.
When you’re done with all this, all that is left is
to tell your new friends that you have a new line.
If you are using WhatsApp (the most popular instant messaging application in Zimbabwe), you do not need to change your number on WhatsApp. If you are in Zimbabwe for a few weeks, then you can simply add the new local SIM card to your phone, use it on WhatsApp and revert to your old line when you go back to your country – no need to change any numbers at all! Simple isn’t it?
is the payment arrangement like?
For all mobile networks, the lines come as pre-paid lines. This means you first have to buy either an electronic or a physical scratch card (which contains the recharge number. We usually call these Juice cards so don’t get confused when someone calls a scratch card a juice card). One can apply for a contract line at the Mobile Network’s branches if the person is interested in purchasing post-paid lines.
In addition, we have what are called bundles. There are data bundles that are used for anything that uses data, then there are Facebook bundles which can only visit the Facebook website, or can only use the Facebook Messenger application to work, then there are WhatsApp bundles that allow the user to use the bundle to send and receive messages using the WhatsApp application (including pictures, audio, and even sometimes allows for WhatsApp calls), Instagram bundles , and SMS bundles (yes some people still use texts) and some mobile networks offer On-Net & Cross net voice bundles.
It is quite unfortunate that we don’t have Telegram
bundles because Telegram is such a great application that could would be used a
lot more if it had bundles made specifically for it.
phone do I need to use in Zimbabwe?
Well, you will actually need two. One has to be a Mbudzi, and the other one a smartphone (Yes you need a Mbudzi EVEN if your smartphone is a dual SIM smartphone).
Must have Mbudzi features:
Lightweight, Excellent Battery, Torch
Must have Smartphone features:
Good battery, Torch, WhatsApp Capable, Good Camera, Dual Sim (not really important anymore because the person will have a Mbudzi)
The Mbudzi is for making EcoCash payments (we’ll talk about what EcoCash in another week), and for backup e.g when you are travelling and your Smartphone runs out of juice.
The Smartphone is for prestige, taking good pictures
and using WhatsApp (nobody really cares about reverse charging, NFC, 30 Megapixel
Cameras, Bluetooth 5.0). Make sure the smartphone that you buy has parts that
are locally available (especially the screen and the battery). Never ever buy a
smartphone without an accompanying mbudzi, otherwise if your smartphone
eventually fails or gets stolen, you won’t have a phone at all!
As a general rule of the thumb, a good Iphone is a
good phone to have in this country (because a good Iphone is a status symbol +
IOs is just better than android).
Where can I get my phone fixed?
Say you run into trouble, and your phone needs to be fixed. Where do you go?
Get into Harare’s CBD. There will be loads of shops
to go to.
Harare’s 1st street is a good place to
If your phone is an Iphone, then head over to
Note: Be willing to fork out a fortune. Getting any electronic gadget fixed usually costs a great deal of money. We locals usually first try watching YouTube videos with quick fixes to the problem, and only give our phones to get fixed when we have failed to fix them on our own.
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I can’t wait to share another good article with you next week!