Huge Group subsidiary Huge Cellular has asked former partner Cell C to give it more time to migrate the remaining 15% of customers it hasn’t yet ported to MTN South Africa’s network. Cell C said it won’t get it.
The JSE-listed telecommunications specialist said late on Monday that as of last Friday, it had migrated 85% of Huge Cellular’s customers from Cell C’s network to MTN’s. In all, Huge must transfer about 16 000 customers (and 43 000 telephone lines), mainly small enterprises.
Update: After the publication of this article, Cell C agreed to extend the deadline for Huge Group to complete the migration to no later than 30 November.
Huge is porting the customers after a series of legal wrangles with Cell C. The dispute remains the subject of arbitration. TechCentral reported in September that relations between the companies had reached rock bottom, with Cell C claiming it was owed R60-million by Huge and Huge saying it was actually the one that was owed money “morally”.
Huge Group CEO James Herbst accused the mobile operator of receiving a “windfall gain of R60-million at my expense”, while Cell C chief executive for wholesale Björn Flormann accused Huge of getting a free ride on the company’s infrastructure for over a year without paying what was due for the services rendered.
The courts took a dim view of Huge Group’s claims, with the high court issuing a damning judgment earlier this year against an urgent application brought by the company, accusing it of wasting the court’s time.
In a statement to shareholders on Monday, Huge Group said: “The impact that Covid-19 has had on South Africa has been devastating, with the ongoing impact it is having on SMEs being arguably worse. To avoid any further negative impact, Huge Cellular is engaging with Cell C Service Provider Company with a view to Cell C SPC extending access to the Cell C mobile telephone network to ensure that the final few remaining customers are migrated to MTN’s mobile telephone network without any loss of service.”
It said Cell C SPC informed Huge Cellular in August that it no longer wanted to provide services to the company and gave it until 31 October to migrate its customers to another network. This deadline was extended to 13 November, Huge Group said. It now needs more time to migrate the remaining customers, it said.
In response to Huge Group’s request for a further extension, Cell C said the deal would be terminated on 13 November. “A conscious decision was made by Cell C to end the relationship with Huge following a breakdown in trust in the relationship. This breakdown was exacerbated by the delay and litigious tactics use by Huge to try and renegotiate a commercial agreement, which the high court has labelled as ‘adopting a less than honest and intractable stance when it comes to its relationship with Cell C’,” the mobile operator said.
“Huge has had since February 2019 to plan and implement a smooth transition of its customers to a new service provider. Cell C granted Huge two extensions to finish the migration,” it said. “In addition, Huge still owes Cell C a significant outstanding amount of money for network usage, which the company is in the process of recovering through legal action.”
In a separate development on Monday, Huge Group said its Huge Telecom subsidiary has launched a service that provides unlimited voice calls from a fixed location for R500/month. “Naturally, terms and conditions apply, and the service excludes calls to premium numbers and calls to international destinations, but it really is an ‘eat as much as you like’ offer,” the company said. — © 2020 NewsCentral Media