Cell C takes wraps off LTE trial

The pilot service will be offered in South Africa’s four biggest cities and will be free for a "select group" of heavy data users.

Alan Knott-Craig

Mobile operator Cell C has finally launched its trial of its next-generation mobile broadband network based on long-term evolution (LTE) technology.

The company says that a “select group of heavy data customers that fall in coverage areas have been identified to form part of Cell C’s free trial LTE service”. These customers will receive a Huawei LTE dongle and 100GB of data to test the company’s service for a limited time, it says in a statement.

Cell C has live LTE sites in each of the trial cities of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. The company will have over 60 sites before the end of the year and more will follow in the new year, the statement says.

“While coverage is limited for the time being, we are excited to bring high speeds to our selected trial customers. Once we have feedback on the service from these customers, we will expand the service to other customers,” says CEO Alan Knott-Craig.

In addition to the free trial, Cell C plans to offer “up to” 800 customers the “opportunity to purchase an LTE dongle with an LTE-enabled Sim”. This Sim will be loaded with 100GB of data, which will be valid for 365 days, for a once-off fee of R2 999.

Customers hoping to participate in the commercial trial will be able to purchase their device and data from participating stores in the trial cities of Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria, Cell C says.

“Cell C does not intend to roll out LTE on a national scale until there is more clarity regarding government’s broadband plans,” says Knott-Craig. “Cell C would like to see the formation of a consortium consisting of both private and government entities … to roll-out a national LTE network using the spectrum that becomes available when broadcasters switch from analogue to digital.”

The operator is the last of South Africa’s mobile players to launch an LTE network. Both Vodacom and MTN already offer limited commercial LTE products, while 8ta, like Cell C, is running a pilot, with commercial services to follow next year.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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