Cell C will take its number three spot back from Telkom — CEO

Cell C will retake its spot as South Africa’s third largest mobile operator, CEO Jorge Mendes told journalists at a media engagement on Tuesday.

Mendes said this was not a case of ambition or a specific goal they’d set for themselves but something he said would happen as a natural course of getting the company back on track.

He said that if all goes according to plan, they would “at least” overtake Telkom to become third-biggest again.

Cell C was South Africa’s third-biggest mobile network operator for several years, but Telkom’s mobile subscribers surpassed it sometime in late 2020.

At the end of 2020, Telkom had 14.93 million customers, compared to Cell C’s 9.32 million.

Despite its deep financial struggles, Cell C grew its customer base over the next year and a half.

However, it could not catch up with Telkom, which has since widened the gap to over 10 million subscribers.

Part of Cell C’s turnaround plan is launching new products that Mendes said are unavailable elsewhere in South Africa.

Mendes declined to give specifics about the new products, explaining that he wanted to hold onto any competitive advantage.

However, he said they should announce their first new products in a month, with many more coming to market in the next six months.

These won’t be regular minutes and megabytes type services, Mendes said.

“We’ll still do those. They’re bread and butter. You can’t have a bakery and not sell buns,” he said.

“But we’re hoping to offer [a variety of] sprinkles [from which customers can choose].”

Mendes said many of these new products are predicated on negotiations around their wholesale and roaming agreements with MTN and Vodacom.

Although he couldn’t provide details, he said he expects to be able to announce the first of these moves in days.

He also said Cell C is close to announcing executives responsible for growth and its enterprise business.

“I have an enterprise offer [in the works] that will set the market on fire,” he said.

Mendes said there is an opportunity for disruptive products aimed at larger organisations with lots of staff.

They expect to roll out the product “from April onwards,” he said.

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Cell C will take its number three spot back from Telkom — CEO