Cell C announced that it has successfully decommissioned 34% of its physical Radio Access Network (RAN) sites and seamlessly migrated prepaid and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) customers to roam completely on its partner network, MTN, via a virtual RAN.
In this first phase, the focus was in three provinces — the Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Cape.
The company has stated that the migration in these provinces is now complete.
“In the next six months, Cell C plans to decommission a further 10% of its network sites, with a focus in North-West, Limpopo, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga,” it stated.
The initial Cell C and MTN roaming agreement from 2018 provided coverage in areas outside of the main metros.
The decommissioning of sites in these provinces means that where Cell C customers previously moved between Cell C and MTN towers, they will now only roam on MTN’s network through the virtual radio network provisioned for Cell C, which has wide network coverage.
Through its expanded roaming agreement with MTN, Cell C said that it will have access to more than 12,500 4G/LTE-ready sites for its prepaid and MVNO customers across the country.
Cell C said it plans to complete the decommissioning of its network in late 2023.
“If our strategy were to play catch up to the Vodacom and MTN networks, we would have to invest R1.5 billion per year for 18 years — conservatively estimated at R27 billion — based on the assumption that we would be able to build 400 new cellular sites per year, and assuming Vodacom and MTN did not build any new sites during this period,” said the chief technology officer at Cell C, Schalk Visser.
“This investment in our network infrastructure would be impossible to maintain.”
According to Cell C, technological advances made it possible for network operators to avoid duplication of investment in RAN infrastructure.
It explained that Cell C will decommission its physical RAN, which includes towers, base stations, antennas, and radio and transmission equipment. MTN will then provision a virtual RAN for Cell C using its infrastructure.
Cell C will use its own spectrum on this virtual RAN and manage the customer experience.
“As a mobile network operator Cell C is still responsible for its spectrum licenses, core network, transport network, billing system and subscriber management,” the company stated.
“This approach will significantly reduce network expenses and capital expenditure, allowing the newly positioned technology company to be profitable, access best-in-class infrastructure, benefit from scale, improve customer experience, focus on innovating products and services; and be able to pass on value to customers.”
According to Visser, data will become Cell C’s cost of sale and the real value will be created through the servicing of customer needs.
“It will not be about the technologies, but rather Cell C’s ability to understand customer needs, using AI and data analytics, and then satisfy those needs with the appropriate technology and user experience.”
He said that Cell C’s network strategy is to strengthen our position as a wholesale buyer and aggregator of network capacity with a quality network and become a digital services provider.