Cell C loses its towers

  • Cell C has completed its transition away from physical radio towers to host its network.
  • Now, Cell C customers will be able to access Cell C’s network via a virtual radio access network operated by MTN.
  • The recent loadshedding crisis has forced companies like MTN and Telkom to fork out millions in order to keep their towers working during power outages.

Now in its fifth year after embarking on a company-wide turnaround strategy, Cell C has lost its physical radio tower infrastructure. According to an MTN press release sent to Hypertext, the telecom has completed its transition from its physical radio towers and will be migrating its entire network to a virtual radio access network operated by MTN.

The whole ordeal is part of a network transition strategy announced by the cash-strapped Cell C that will go towards eliminating the need for costly investment and operational management of physical towers and network sites.

In 2021 it became clear that Cell C would begin leasing infrastructure from MTN to continue eliminating costs as part of their turnaround strategy. That year, Cell C indicated that it had already ditched over 30 percent of its towers to rather roam on MTN’s towers free of charge.

The cost of running tower infrastructure is only increasing amid seemingly endless loadshedding. As Eskom is unable to generate enough electricity to meet South Africa’s demand, telecoms like MTN, Cell C and Telkom have to invest millions into generators and diesel to keep networks operational.

While these costs are a passable expense to companies like MTN, the largest and most profitable telecom firm in Africa, they hit smaller telecoms a lot harder. Earlier this year Telkom announced that its profits declined by 13.5 percent due to loadshedding-related costs in keeping its towers operational, amounting to an additional R150 million in Q3 2022 alone.

MTN says it provides networking for other telecoms like Liquid, and Telkom, apart from Cell C.

“The recent success of the Cell C transition is a perfect example of this value creation in action as we continue to build and grow our presence aggressively in a market crying out for a trusted, innovative, and cost-efficient partner,” says MTN SA wholesale executive, Quintus de Beer.

“Our aim is to create shared value by placing our partners at the centre of all we do,” De Beer added.

The news paints a sunnier picture for Cell C. The telecom completed a recapitalisation process in 2022 in order to deal with its R7.3 billion debt. Its debts came to light after Cell C announced that it made a R8.3 billion loss in 2019.

Last month Cell C’s CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson said he was to step down from the role after leading the company through its recapitalisation. Relative newcomer Brett Copans is now serving in the position in the interim.

[Image – Photo by Chris Anderson on Unsplash]


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