Cell C’s big network improvement

Cell C’s mobile data network performance has improved significantly in the past year, which the mobile operator says is due to its new network strategy it has been implementing over the last four years.

The latest MyBroadband Insights network quality report revealed that Cell C’s average download speed increased from 28.70Mbps in Q1 2023 to 39.32Mbps in Q1 2024.

This improvement helped Cell C overtake Telkom and rank third behind MTN and Vodacom in network quality during the first quarter of 2024.

According to Cell C, this achievement resulted from sticking to its network transformation strategy for the past four years.

Cell C announced in 2020 that it would no longer invest in rolling out its own radio access infrastructure and instead partner with MTN and Vodacom.

MTN and Vodacom have each consistently invested over R10 billion per year into their mobile networks in South Africa.

Cell C realised it could not compete with their level of investment and would need to partner with the big guns to stand a chance of competing against them.

In 2021, Cell C migrated its contract customers onto Vodacom through a traditional roaming agreement.

It also began migrating its prepaid customers and mobile virtual network operator clients — like FNB and Capitec Connect — onto a virtual radio access network (RAN) built and operated by MTN.

This virtual RAN uses Cell C’s radio frequency spectrum, with the added benefit of roaming on MTN’s network.

Cell C completed this migration in 2023 when it switched off the last of its towers.

Cell C CTO Schalk Visser said this strategy significantly improved connectivity for their customers.

“This business model is similar to other asset-light models like AirBnB and Uber, who provide services without owning the assets,” he said.

“It will allow Cell C to focus investment on deep customer centricity and quality experience, as well as to deliver value and choice to customers.”

Visser said their partnerships with MTN and Vodacom give Cell C subscribers access to around 28,000 towers nationwide.

“Customers can enjoy quality connectivity and uninterrupted data services with reduced dead zones in previously underserved areas where lack of coverage impacted access to the Internet,” he said.

This has given them improved stability with fewer connectivity issues, improved signal strength, better voice quality, minimal downtime, greater reliability and resilience and consistency of network, and increased coverage.

“Cell C has pushed boundaries to bring to life a pioneering new business model in the telecommunications industry,” Visser said.

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Cell C’s big network improvement