Cell C starts migrating customers off its network

Cell C has started the process of migrating customers to its roaming partners’ cellphone tower infrastructure as it prepares to switch off its own radio access network.

The mobile operator is sending customers an SMS asking them to turn on Data Roaming manually on their devices to ensure their mobile data connection remains active.

The SMS, which is being sent to Cell C’s contract and broadband customers, reads as follows:

Experiencing a disruption to your data connectivity? Please activate Data Roaming manually and restart your device. We apologise for any inconvenience. Go to https://bit.ly/3qKgY6W or call 084 135.

In a statement available at the provided link, the operator explained what the migration process will entail.

“From mid-December [2020], our contract and broadband customers will be enabled to roam on a partner network,” Cell C stated.

“This change will be beneficial to our customers and ensure a connectivity experience that delivers both quality and value.”

According to the operator, customers will be migrated in stages, and it anticipated the transition to be complete by early February 2021.

Customers will be alerted via SMS communication when their service will be enabled.

Cell C emphasised that the change will not result in any additional charges and that the existing terms and conditions of packages will remain in place.

Network shutting down

Cell C previously told MyBroadband it was in the process of moving entirely onto MTN’s network, which would result in the company switching off its radio access network.

This infrastructure sharing strategy will help Cell C to cut down on network investments and still get the benefit from an excellent service through MTN.

This forms part of a broader turnaround strategy to get the company out of deep financial trouble.

With Cell C’s liabilities and debts exceeding its assets and its inability to meet its debt obligations on time, the company is insolvent.

Its financial situation is so dire that the auditors of Cell C’s largest shareholder, Blue Label Telecoms, have not classified Cell C as a going concern for a while.

The company also lost its position as the third-largest mobile operator in South Africa to Telkom in 2020.

Cell C CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson previously told MyBroadband some of the company’s radio network equipment will be sold, which will generate money for the company.

In addition, certain rented components of its radio network will be given back to the companies it leases it from.

“As Cell C deconstructs its network over the transition period, traffic will be moved from our physical radio network to the virtual radio network provisioned for us by MTN,” he said.

How to turn on Data Roaming

Customers who use Android devices or routers are required to manually activate data roaming and restart their device to minimise interruptions in data connectivity, Cell C said.

To find out how to activate Data Roaming on your particular smartphone, tablet or router, visit this link and select your device at the bottom of the page.

Users of Apple devices will have their data roaming activated automatically, Cell C noted.

Comment from Cell C

“Cell C is making progress with the implementation of its network strategy as part of its turnaround strategy, aimed at improving overall operational efficiency and adopting an operating model to partner with the best-of-breed on both infrastructure and services,” the company told MyBroadband.

The migration process has started with contract and broadband customers and is due to be completed in the next two months. The phased transition of prepaid customers will be confirmed in due course.

“Cell C’s network strategy will enable the company to provide network services to customers via roaming agreements with partner networks while continuing to offer a full Cell C customer experience,” Cell C said.

“Network roaming agreements are being implemented over three years during which time Cell C will transition customers from its own network onto partner networks, and decommission its own towers in the phased process.”

Cell C said this roaming model will improve its overall network connectivity and provide Cell C customers with a better customer experience.

“Our strategic vision is to differentiate ourselves by focusing on innovative products and services without being owners of capital-intensive infrastructure. This creates more flexibility and capacity to deliver the right quality of service to our current and future customers,” said Cell C CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson.

“Cell C is pioneering the evolution of the MNO space in South Africa by becoming a significant wholesale buyer of network capacity and infrastructure services. It is a win-win as the individual operators deliver segmental expertise to the benefit of everyone in the industry.”

While this network transition will be beneficial in the long run, Cell C said the last thing it wants is to disrupt connectivity.

It is therefore asking contract and broadband customers to activate Data Roaming manually on their phone’s settings. If customers have a router they will need to do this via their PC. Apple device Data Roaming will be activated automatically.

Cell C will send customers three SMSs prior to the changeover taking place. It is important not to ignore these, the operator said.

Now read: The best and worst mobile networks in South Africa

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Cell C starts migrating customers off its network