Cell C customers could have access to 5G connectivity soon as the mobile network operator says it is in talks with its infrastructure partners to implement the service.
MyBroadband asked Cell C whether it planned to launch a 5G network for its customers, and the company’s chief technology officer, Schalk Visser, said it is in the works.
“We are in discussions with our infrastructure partners and close to the implementation of 5G services for our customers,” Visser said.
The mobile network operator acquired 10MHz in the 3,500MHz band — at the cost of R288 million — during the long-anticipated spectrum auction, which was concluded in March 2022.
Visser said the high-demand spectrum would allow Cell C to continue to innovate its products and services.
Cell C previously told MyBroadband that the spectrum would allow it to develop its virtualised radio network further.
Visser explained their virtualised radio access network lets Cell C run its baseband functions as software, allowing it to replace its expensive hardware.
In October 2021, Cell C revealed that it had managed to migrate 40% of its network to vRAN.
“We have successfully migrated 40% of the network, with access to 7,500 towers of which 95% are 4G/LTE enabled,” Cell C’s CEO, Douglas Craigie Stevenson, said.
“Four provinces are now fully migrated, namely Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and Limpopo. We will continue to add new sites, which will reduce our network deficit.”
Cell C has transitioned more of its network since, with Visser stating that nearly 50% of the transition had been completed.
Cell C and Telkom are the only South African mobile network operators that do not have 5G coverage.
Rain was the first to launch a commercial 5G network in South Africa in September 2019. It initially only provided coverage in Johannesburg and Tshwane.
The cellular network operator has since expanded its 5G coverage to over 6 million households across South Africa.
Vodacom launched its 5G network for mobile and fixed wireless broadband customers in May 2020, using a portion of the emergency spectrum allocated by industry regulator Icasa’s Covid-19 disaster regulations.
MTN followed suit in June 2020, when it launched commercial 5G services in selected neighbourhoods in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Port Elizabeth.
Telkom has deployed 5G sites in selected parts of South Africa, which it is currently testing. However, the mobile network operator hasn’t yet made the network commercially available.