Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

4G/5G

Cell C has switched off a third of its RAN network

Article Image
South African operator Cell C has now decommissioned 34% of its physical radio access network (RAN) sites.

The cash-strapped operator is continuing with a strategy to move away from spending money on infrastructure and instead become a wholesale buyer of capacity and services. Cell C wants to get rid of its tower infrastructure within the next three years and permanently roam on other networks.

SA's fourth-biggest mobile network said in a statement that its first phase of the strategy was focused on three provinces – the Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Cape – which are now 100% 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.

"Our 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," said Cell C's CTO Schalk Visser.

Percentage of Cell C network sites that have been decommissioned per province as of June 2021.
Source: Cell C.
Source: Cell C.

Through its expanded roaming agreement with MTN, Cell C will have access to more than 12,500 4G/LTE-ready sites for its prepaid and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) customers across the country, with completion scheduled for late 2023.

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.

"If our strategy were to play catch up to the Vodacom and MTN networks, we would have to invest R1.5 billion (US$105 million) per year for 18 years – conservatively estimated at R27 billion ($1.9 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. This investment in our network infrastructure would be impossible to maintain," explained Visser.

Cell C said that based on technology advances it is possible for network operators to avoid duplication of investment in RAN infrastructure. In this model, Cell C will decommission its physical RAN, which includes towers, basestations, antennae, radio and transmission equipment, while MTN will provision a virtual RAN.

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.

This approach will significantly reduce network expenses and capital expenditure for the operator that reported a yearly loss of R5.5 billion (US$390 million) for the 2020 financial year.

Related posts:

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Hot startup of the month: Data science marketplace Zindi

This month's hot startup is social enterprise Zindi, which is a professional network for data science in Africa.

Story

Côte d'Ivoire e-health platform Orange Santé launched

Pan-African operator Orange has partnered with Moroccan start-up DabaDoc to create an e-health platform to help Ivorians book doctor’s appointments online.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: May 2022

By Omdia Analysts

SpaceX-owned Starlink's plans to launch a satellite broadband service in Africa was a major highlight in May 2022, says Omdia's analysts.

Story

Omdia View: April 2022

By Omdia Analysts

This month's Omdia View highlights indicate a shift to digital transformation and operational consolidation to maximize return on investments.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Flash poll

All polls

Archived webinars

Africa Green ICT: Lighting Up a Sustainable Continent

The ICT industry is the leading industry in the commitment to carbon neutrality, whose focus has shifted from setting ambitious targets to taking initiatives. The push for zero-carbon and for green energy development, it isn't just about CSR – it's also good for sustainable business.

The path to sustainable development requires green energy. Governments are looking at potential policy approaches to make green energy more widely available and affordable. Without sustainable energy, there will be no digital transformation and no chance of making Africa more economically competitive in the post-pandemic era.

Africa Green ICT Webinar 2022 will bring together ICT industry leaders and senior industrial analysts to provide insight, best practices and key learnings on how to achieve zero-carbon targets and practice green development in Africa.

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

AfricaCom perspectives

Story

Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.

Story

Accelerating women in STEM: In conversation with GirlCode's Tinyiko Simbine

GirlCode co-founder and CFO Tinyiko Simbine talks about why it's important to help girls and young women excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Story

How Poa Internet is unlocking meaningful connectivity in East Africa

Poa Internet's CEO Andy Halsall shares his views on what it takes to develop last-mile connectivity and get Africans online in a meaningful way.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up