Johannesburg - South Africa's third cellular network operator Cell C launched its next generation network under the "4Gs" brand in Port Elizabeth on Friday. The new HSPA+ network is scheduled for a phased rollout in 10 cities across the country.
Data pricing on the network is likely to spark a local price war in mobile broadband, with Cell C making data available at 5c per MB in bundle with an out-of-bundle rate of 39c.
Two packages are available on the new network, both sold at a flat fee that includes a modem and 12 months of connectivity.
The entry level package is sold at R1 499 and includes 24GB of data, while a second package at R2 999 includes 60GB of data. Speed on the entry level package is limited to 7.2Mbps, while the larger package allows speeds of up to 21.6Mbps.
Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt said the new network uses technology from Chinese manufacturer ZTE.
"HSPA+ gives a lot wider and deeper coverage. An HSPA+ transmitter on 900Mhz can cover three to five times more area than a UMTS 2100 site, so I need fewer base stations to cover an area," he said.
He added that voice is also improved with the new technology, which penetrates walls better and is less prone to interference.
Cell C has also been upgrading the core of its network with fibre-optic cables and has already rolled out 1461km of fibre, according to Reichelt.
"There are only about 18 operators in the world running HSPA+ on 900Mhz, but from today there will be 19," said Reichelt.
"We are on track to cover 34% of South Africa's population (with the new network) by the end of 2010 and will cover about 67% by mid-2011," said Reichelt, adding that the next two cities will go online before the end of September.
Cell C rebranded in August with a nationwide marketing campaign and a contentious logo that resembles the copyright symbol. The network also launched BlackBerry on its network in August and has connected more than 9000 BlackBerry devices since then, according to a sales representative.
SHOOT: This ought to be a kick in the nuts for Vodacom and MTN, not to mention local ISP's.