Malawi subscribers test new 3.75G
By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi
Mobile phone users in Blantyre, Malawi, have expressed satisfaction with the newly launched 3.75G network launched last week by Airtel Malawi. However, they have expressed concern that the service will downgrade over time.
Airtel hailed it as the fastest mobile browsing with the widest coverage in Malawi.
Airtel Malawi officials said this is an upgrade from the current 3G data service to a 3.75G network - a third generation mobile network which offers faster information transfer.
Stuart Palika, a teller with one of the commercial banks in Blantyre's Central Business District, says he is hesitant to express his full satisfaction with the service.
"These service providers always bring such incentives, which only work wonders for the first few months before starting misbehaving," he said.
Palika says when Airtel and TNM introduced 3G for example, at first internet was fast and it was such a joyous experience to browse.
"A few months later, things were not the same and both service providers gave a lot of excuses," he said.
At the launch of the 3.75G network infrastructure in Blantyre last week, the Minister of Information, Moses Kunkuyu said the upgrade as a revolution to mobile internet users as they will now access information on their handsets and other mobile devices even faster than before.
"The issues of internet are no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity because it is proving to be a focal point of any aspect of development in the world hence the need to make it easily accessible through such latest technologies which improve internet speeds even in Malawi," he said.
At the event Airtel announced that it is extending its 3.75G services to other districts in Malawi other than just concentrating in the main cities.
At the moment the company says Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Mangochi, Karonga, Kasungu, Salima, Zomba and Kasungu are the areas with 3.75G coverage.
"The upgrade to 3.75G means Airtel will now provide the fastest data speeds in the country. Airtel will offer maximum internet speeds of up to 21Mbps (megabits per second) from the current maximum of 7.2Mbps, The improved technology will allow users to make video calls, fast download of movies and music, watch live streaming of events, fast uploads and downloads of information, fast access to social media pages and mails from their mobile devices," explained Airtel Malawi's managing director, Saulos Chilima.
Airtel has invested USD5.2m to upgrade its network infrastructure to 3.75G.
The company's 3.75 G network upgrade comes just a few months after Airtel Malawi was awarded the Best Mobile Data Operator accolade in Southern and East Africa in December 2011 by the African Telecom People.
However, subscribers say Airtel should stop honking its horn too much and start maintaining quality services.
"What they preach and what they do at their business centres must be the same," complained journalist Chiyangazo Phinda at the ceremony.
She said she has had problems with Airtel Blackberry services and even her efforts to seek assistance at their Nico Centre premises paid no dividends.
"The system keeps removing my airtime from my account even when the previous subscription is still running," she said.
Phinda says if the company is failing on these small areas then they should do better with the 3.75G network platform.
"I understand this is more sophisticated," she said.