Cell C says 5G is on the way as debt uncertainty continues

Cell C says 5G is on the way as debt uncertainty continues

South African operator Cell C is apparently in talks with its infrastructure partners to deploy 5G on a launch date yet to be disclosed. Cell C secured 10MHz in the 3500MHz band for ZAR288 million (about US$18.2 million) in March after South Africa’s long-awaited broadband spectrum auction finally took place.

Cell C has now reportedly moved almost 50% of its network to a virtual radio access network (vRAN), allowing it to run its operations as software on other network operators’ hardware.

These upgrades will make it easier for the company to expand 5G across the country more cheaply than using its own hardware, an important consideration given its financial problems.

These are ongoing. In fact, according to ICT news website MyBroadband, a meeting this week of Cell C’s priority creditors to vote on whether they will in effect waive a large chunk of debt to aid the success of the operator’s recapitalisation plan has been postponed.

The site said last month that Cell C is technically insolvent and is heading for bankruptcy unless a deal is struck to recapitalise the company.

Cell C is no longer the country’s number three operator after Telkom moved into third place last year. Cell C and Telkom are the only South African mobile network operators that do not have 5G coverage, although both are planning implementation.

Vodacom and MTN were the highest bidders at the spectrum auction, which raised a little under US$1 billion. Rain launched the country’s first commercial non-standalone 5G network in February 2019 offering data-only mobile network services. It launched the first standalone 5G network in the country in July 2020.

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