Network operator Cell C says that it’s had a record breaking start to the year, adding more than a million net subscribers in the month of March alone. Speaking at a business update in Gauteng this morning, newly installed CEO Jose dos Santos told journalists that the firm signed up a total of 1.6 million new customers in March, but lost 600 000 a the same time for a total of a million new sign ups overall. In total, he said, the company has added more than 3m net new customers over the first four months of the year.

In total, Cell C grew its user base by 35% over 2013 and now has a total of 16.6 million customers. That compares with MTN”s recent announcement that it has 24.9 million subscribers in South Africa, while Vodacom had 30.9 million at the end of last year.

Most of the new subscribers on a pre-pay tariffs, and Dos Santos was keen to point out that while the firm’s 99c flat rate call charge may no longer be the cheapest headline price on the market, the Supacharge top-up bonuses which throw in free data and SMSes when you top up – which we wrote about recently here – does make it competitive with Vodacom and MTN’s recent price drops.

However, recognising that low numbers make for a good headline, Dos Santos also announced that there will be a new tariff for pre-pay customers, which will charge for voice calls at 66c a minute. This new tariff, however, will not gain top-up bonuses. It’s purely a voice play.

There will also be a new post-pay contract with 30 day cancellation terms with call charges starting at 79c a minute.

“The company is well-funded, well geared and the shareholders believe in us,” Dos Santos said, but he acknowledged that customers have been unhappy with dropped calls and stability. “The Network has had its challenges over the last couple of months and the [engineering] team are working 24/7 to rectify that.”

Cell C currently has 16.6 million subscribers. According to Dos Santos, 92% of Cell C traffic now travels over its own network – 439 new cell sites were added to the network in 2013, and a further 319 are planned this year to take the total to 4494. As a result, Dos Santos says customers in Durban no longer have to roam to other networks.

Speaking about 4G – an area in which Cell C lags behind its competitors – Dos Santos continued to say that the company has plans to offer high-speed mobile broadband, but that it won’t be using LTE in metro areas. Exactly what the firm will be using, he said, will be revealed in a couple of weeks time.


Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar,, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.