South Africa’s Cell C completes network migration

South Africa’s Cell C completes network migration

South African operator Cell C has announced the successful completion of its move to a virtual radio access network model – some months before its originally announced target date.

Put simply, it has switched off all its own tower infrastructure and handed over the building and operation of its cellular network to fellow South African operator MTN.

MTN will provide Cell C with access to what is described as a virtual radio access network for its prepaid and MVNO subscribers.

According to the MyBroadband ICT news website, MVNOs that run on Cell C include FNB Connect, Capitec Connect, Shoprite K’nect, and Standard Bank Mobile. Cell C’s contract subscribers already all roam on Vodacom.

Cell C says it now has access to around 14,000 towers countrywide, close to trebling its network access from 5,500 towers in under three years. Of these, over 12,000 sites are 4G/LTE enabled. Cell C said it uses its own spectrum and is still fully in control of the customer experience.

While Cell C has loudly touted the  technology advances that have enabled this approach and the growth of the infrastructure-as-a-service network model, this move was at least partly driven by the financial woes that led to last year’s recapitalisation. Cell C can ill-afford to invest billions yearly to roll out a physical radio access network and compete effectively.

It was in September last year that we reported the successful recapitalisation of Cell C after years of negotiation. The plan at the time was to finish the implementation of the network migration by end-2023. Cell C has beaten that deadline by nearly six months.

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