South African telco Cell C has announced the completion of its network migration ahead of schedule.

According to the company, this saw the South African mobile network operator deactivate its own physical tower and radio access network (RAN).

By doing this, Cell C said it was able to migrate its prepaid and mobile virtual network operator customers to a virtualized RAN enabled by MTN, its network infrastructure partner.

South Africa mobile tower
– Getty Images

In total, the operator said it's operating with access to around 14,000 towers countrywide, with more than 12 000 sites with 4G/LTE enabled.

The migration will provide Cell C customers with better coverage, improved connection, and will see fewer dropped calls, the operator said.

"This is a huge milestone for Cell C and our valued customers," said Schalk Visser, Cell C's chief technology officer.

"We have effectively increased our network access close to three-fold in less than three years, from 5,500 towers to 14,000. We are the first mobile operator to think about our network strategy differently and instead of trying to build out an expensive and unsustainable network we chose to become a buyer of network services."

Cell C has more than 16 million mobile subscribers, and is the country's fourth-biggest mobile operator.

Without the network migration, Cell C would have to invest millions each year to deploy RAN infrastructure in the traditional MNO model. Other South African telcos, Vodacom and MTN, spend over $535 million a year on their mobile networks in South Africa.

"We can now focus our investment and energies into innovating products and services that will add value to customers, knowing that we can operate from a competitive platform that offers the same quality connectivity to all South Africans," added Visser.