Cell C giving up its network and spectrum licences

Cell C has applied to transfer its network operating licences and radio frequency spectrum to shareholder The Prepaid Company (TPC), a subsidiary of Blue Label Telecoms.

According to its latest financial results, Blue Label owns a combined 63.19% financial stake in Cell C.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) gave notice of Cell C’s application via Government Gazette on Wednesday, 6 December 2023.

According to the notice, Cell C has applied to transfer its Individual Electronic Communications Service (I-ECS), Individual Electronic Communications Network Service (I-ECNS), and spectrum licences to TPC.

This includes Cell C’s prime spectrum in the 2100MHz, 900MHz, and 1800MHz bands.

Spectrum is the raw network capacity that cellular operators require to provide signal to wireless devices from their towers.

Its I-ECNS licence allows Cell C to build, operate, and provide wholesale access on its own physical network infrastructure.

The I-ECS licences lets Cell C sell telecommunications services directly to end-users.

Cell C no longer operates its own towers. It handed over management of its radio access network (RAN) to MTN, which provides it with a “virtual RAN”.

However, only its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) customers like FNB Connect and its own prepaid clients use this network.

Cell C has a separate roaming agreement with Vodacom for its postpaid and broadband customers, administered through another Blue Label subsidiary, Comm Equipment Company.

Despite not operating its own network, Cell C has long argued that it is not simply a high-level MVNO because it has its own spectrum.

Without its operating or spectrum licences, Cell C’s argument that it is still a fully-fledged mobile network operator is once again called into question.

MyBroadband contacted Cell C for comment on the development. It acknowledged our query but couldn’t immediately provide feedback.

Now read: Cell C is insolvent

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Cell C giving up its network and spectrum licences