Debt-troubled South African operator Cell C has started the process of migrating customers to its roaming partners’ tower infrastructure as it prepares to switch off its own radio access network.
Customers, who are being sent text messages advising them to turn on data roaming to retain their data connection, will be migrated in stages. Cell C has suggested the transition will be complete by early February.
As we have been reporting during 2020, the company is in the process of finalising a recapitalisation plan that it hopes will improve its liquidity and debt profile, of which this migration is presumably a part. However, it’s not entirely clear which partners will be involved.
South African technology publication MyBroadband reports that Cell C had previously indicated that it was in the process of moving entirely onto MTN’s network, an infrastructure-sharing strategy with a long-standing partner that would cut network costs but ensure good service.
However, it now appears that Cell C’s contract and broadband customers are being migrated to another operator – Vodacom.
This isn’t necessarily illogical. Cell C has national roaming agreements with both MTN and Vodacom and Vodacom is a major player with a good service of its own.
However, the move to Vodacom came as a surprise given Cell C’s long-standing partnership with MTN. Also Cell C apparently did not announce it was migrating its contract subscribers to Vodacom beforehand in a press statement or through information shared with customers.
It is currently not clear whether Cell C’s prepaid subscriber base will be migrated to Vodacom or MTN.