Virgin Mobile SA to launch service over Cell C’s HSPA+ network while Cell C announces HSPA+ tests

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Virgin Mobile South Africa is planning to launch its own mobile broadband service using Cell C’s HSPA+ network, Cell C has confirmed. Since launch, Virgin Mobile South Africa has been piggybacking on Cell C’s network to provide voice and data services. 

Virgin Mobile has not yet announced a launch date for its HSPA+ services which is dependent on Cell C’s own commercial launch. Virgin Mobile South Africa is a joint-venture between Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Cell C. 

While Cell C has announced that tests for its new HSPA+ network are currently underway in six cities, and the results are ‘very promising’. More than 1,300 base stations, located in six major cities, have already been converted to HSPA+ using the 900MHz frequency band, and CEO Kelly Reichelt has promised that Cell C will launch its new network on a city-by-city basis, rectifying any potential problem areas as it goes along. Cell C will eventually upgrade 5,200 bases stations to the new platform. Cell C expects to cover 34% of the South African population with its HSPA+ network by end-2010 and aims for 67% population coverage by mid-2011. 

Although MTN has already launched a commercial 21Mbps HSPA+ service, Cell C aims to be the first South African operator to rollout HSPA+ across its entire network. It took Vodacom almost five years to achieve 50% 3G population coverage using the 2100MHz band, whilst Cell C’s strategy to use the 900MHz frequency should make it easier for the cellco to reach rural customers. According to Reichelt a single HSPA+ 900MHz transmitter can cover a three to five times larger area than those using the higher band.