Cell C kisses its own network goodbye

After completing its network migration process, Cell C says it now has access to 28,000 network towers nationwide, increasing the operator’s coverage in the country.

Part of the network migration process included the switching off of Cell C’s own network infrastructure, and with the company saying it has completed the process, one can assume that its network towers are no longer active.

MyBroadband asked Cell C to confirm whether it had finished switching off its own radio network.

The operator side-stepped the question, although it had previously stated in June 2023 that it had completed its network migration.

However, it did provide information about the company’s network migration project.

Through its network migration, MTN will provide Cell C access to a “virtual radio access network” for prepaid and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) customers.

Meanwhile, Cell C’s contract subscribers are already roaming on Vodacom’s network.

“We have effectively increased our network access close to three-fold in less than three years, from 5,500 towers to 14,000,” Cell C chief technology officer Schalk Visser said at the time.

Cell C says it now has access to 28,000 towers nationwide, and customers can enjoy quality connectivity with reduced dead zones in previously underserved areas where lack of coverage impacted access to the internet and uninterrupted data services.

It also said it has access to over 13,000 4G/LTE-enabled sites on the MTN network and 14,000 on the Vodacom network.

“This means expanded national coverage, and greater network stability also during load-shedding,” said Cell C.

Cell C chief technology officer Schalk Visser

Cell C says this will benefit its customers in several ways, including expanded coverage, faster speeds, and improved stability.

“Faster data downloads and uploads to enjoy various forms of entertainment such as video and gaming [are] just some of the online uses that are now quicker to access,” it said.

It said the roaming deals also mean fewer connectivity issues with improved signal strength, voice quality, minimal downtime and greater reliability, resilience, and network consistency.

“We are thrilled that we can confidently deliver quality connectivity to our customers,” said Cell C CEO Jorge Mendes.

“Through the smart use of technology we’re committed to focusing the depth of network expertise and partnerships to deliver digital access at the best prices for the nation.”

Cell C giving up control of its network and spectrum licences

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), via Government Gazette, revealed that Cell C had applied to transfer its network operating licences and radio frequency spectrum to The Prepaid Company (TPC).

TPC is a shareholder of 45% of the issued share capital of Cell C. Its parent company, Blue Label Telecoms, owns a combined 63.19% financial stake in Cell C.

However, should the transfer be approved, TPC will see its 49.53% non-controlling stake increase to a majority shareholding of 53.57%.

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

The I-ECNS licence permits the holder to sell wholesale access to physical network infrastructure, while I-ECS licences let companies sell telecommunications services to consumers.

The notice also revealed that Cell C applied to transfer its licences for its 2,100MHz, 900MHz, and 1,800MHz allocations — effectively all of its premium raw wireless capacity.

Icasa later extended the deadlines for stakeholder comment on the transfer to the following dates:

  • 22 January 2024 — Submission of written representations by interested parties
  • 12 February 2024 — Applicants’ responses to written submissions

Public hearings will follow if necessary, based on written submissions, followed by a decision.

There was some confusion about whether Cell C really needs to transfer control of its licences to TPC to fulfil its regulatory requirements.

Icasa’s permission is needed for TPC to increase its 49.5% non-controlling stake to a 53.6% controlling stake.

According to Cell C, Icasa issued a clarifying memorandum in 2014 stipulating that a transfer of control of licence is necessary under these circumstances.

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Cell C kisses its own network goodbye