Cell C starts to build its virtual network on MTN’s infrastructure

Cell C has started to provision its own radio access network (RAN) on MTN’s infrastructure on 1 January 2021, a process which is expected to be completed in three years.

This is feedback from MTN’s executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan on their network partnership with Cell C.

By moving onto MTN’s infrastructure, Cell C will be able to switch off its radio access network and reduce its network investment spend.

This forms part of Cell C’s turnaround strategy which is aimed at improving operational efficiency by partnering with the best-of-breed on both infrastructure and services.

Over a three-year transition period, Cell C will use roaming agreements with Vodacom and MTN to serve its customers.

During this time, Cell C will decommission its own towers in a phased process and sell the radio network equipment it owns.

Cell C has already started to migrate its contract and broadband subscribers to Vodacom. This migration is expected to be completed in February.

It is understood that the operator’s prepaid subscribers will be migrated to MTN’s network.

All these developments are part of Cell C’s vision to differentiate itself “by focusing on innovative products and services without being owners of capital-intensive infrastructure”.

Cell C CEO, Douglas Craigie Stevenson said this strategy creates more flexibility and capacity to deliver the right quality of service to their customers.

“We are moving closer to our vision that offers customers quality network access and makes Cell C a customer-first service provider,” he said.

Cell C’s virtual network on MTN’s infrastructure

O’Sullivan told MyBroadband Cell C’s three-year planned migration will include Cell C provisioning its own RAN on MTN’s infrastructure.

The Cell C RAN will be implemented on logically partitioned MTN infrastructure and transmission.

This is made possible by the evolution of equipment and antennas to the extent that multiple operators can share these.

“The MTN network modernisation programme took this into consideration,” O’Sullivan said.

Even after Cell C’s RAN transition is complete, there will still be an element of roaming on MTN’s network in areas where Cell C does not have its own RAN.

MTN subscribers are also set to benefit from the agreement as Cell C has sold some roaming capacity to MTN on its RAN’s spare capacity.

MyBroadband asked Cell C about the technical specifications of its virtual network, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.

Cell C not an MVNO – Craigie Stevenson

Craigie Stevenson previously said while they are switching off their radio network, they should not be seen as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator).

He highlighted that Cell C will have “a virtual network provided by MTN” with full control over its spectrum, coverage, and network quality.

Cell C will also maintain its core network and will keep its voice interconnect agreements with other operators.

The image below provides an overview of the difference between Cell C’s virtual network on MTN and a typical MVNO.

Now read: Why Cell C is moving its contract customers to Vodacom

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Cell C starts to build its virtual network on MTN’s infrastructure