When Vodafone came on the Zambian market last year 2016, there was much excitement as many of us Internet “power users” expected a great service at very competitive pricing. This was because of great dissatisfaction with expensive local Internet services which were (and still are) largely unreliable, slow and unstable.
Vodafone came with a bang in those first 3 months. I bought their Mi-Fi device and thoroughly tested their 4G Internet service and it was better than all their competitors. Their service was fast with real time live video streaming, reliable, stable and extremely affordable. I did my first review of their service on my blog, and they came out tops in my review, despite a few issues here and there.
Sadly, Vodafone have gone down the path of most Zambian companies providing data services in failing to maintain the high standards they set. Their service is now rather annoying, for a company dedicated to providing data only services to a small market such as Zambia with limited Internet penetration. You may have to think twice before acquiring their services and the following are the reasons for my assessment:
1. The Vodafone Internet connection and speeds are often unstable. You can be browsing at lightning speeds for 2 hours and suddenly the speed drops to a crawl and even simple web pages fail to open. The connection often drops for up to 20 minutes at a time for unexplained reasons. It is greatly infuriating to say the least.
2. Their signal is not uniform all over Lusaka. There are parts of Lusaka where the signal is weak, goes off or is very unstable. For example in Nyumba Yanga, Woodlands, Ibex Hill, Emmasdale, parts of Rhodes Park (eg near the Supreme Court), etc. I have tested their service extensively in many areas and it is simply not satisfactory. But in some areas like Manda Hill and Arcades, the signal is strong, consistent and fast.
3. Their Huawei Mi-Fi gadgets are very poor quality. My gadget keeps rebooting itself (for whatever reason) and I was told (off the record) by some Vodafone employees that the white ones have been especially problematic, compared to the black ones.
4. I have consulted with many of my friends who use the Vodafone service and most of them are as unimpressed as I am.
5. There are far fewer outlets to buy Vodafone airtime, compared to their competitors who also offer voice services.
6. They still do not have special rates for night and weekend browsing. One of their competitors for example has a 1.5GB night bundle for about K10 and a 4.5GB weekend offer for about K60.
7. Their Android App sometimes requires you to login again when you are checking your balance, by sending you an sms with a code to enter. Why doesn’t it permanently log you in the first time?
8. To change the password for the Mi-Fi or Wireless Router (just in case an unauthorised person keeps connecting) is a hustle. You have to use the gadget’s IP address (if you know what that is and how to get it) then log in to some web interface and follow instructions.
I think Vodafone needs to go back to the drawing board. There is no excuse for failure to maintain the high standards they set in 2016. I have ended up having the Mi-FI gadget sitting unused for weeks on end and I have gone back to their competitors even though they charge more. At least they are more stable and reliable, despite their own issues.