World's largest mobile virtual network, Lyca Mobile, shuts down in South Africa after six years

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January 12, 2024
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2 min read
hand holding a Lyca Mobile SIM card
Source: Ugtechmag.com
  • Six years after its launch, Lyca Mobile, the largest mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) globally, has shut down in South Africa.
  • The company, which shut down operations in the country on January 9, 2024, advised its customers to move their numbers to other mobile networks to minimise any risk of losing them. Customers can no longer make phone calls, send texts, or access mobile data.
  • It also acknowledged the discontinuation of online top-ups and the use of retail top-up vouchers. The statement also mentioned that plans or top-ups bought at retail locations would expire on or before the closure date.

Per a statement, the MVNO will cancel any unused credit in the Lyca Mobile account. While users can request a refund by contacting customer support, those who move to a different operator without doing so will not be eligible for a refund.

Lyca Mobile was founded in the United Kingdom in 2006 and has since grown to serve over 15 million customers in Africa, Europe, the United States, Australia, and Asia. 

The mobile network, which is also present in Uganda and Tunisia, expanded to South Africa in 2017 with a partnership with Cell C, a mobile network operator in the country. 

In November 2023, Cell C, a South African telco, issued a trading update that included audited numbers for 2021 and 2022. According to the report, the company is facing severe financial challenges, exacerbated by a declining user base and stagnant revenue.

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In the same month, the company applied to transfer control of its spectrum, network, and service licences as part of a larger application by The Prepaid Company (TPC) — a subsidiary of Blue Label Telecoms and Cell C’s largest shareholder — to acquire a controlling stake in the mobile operator.

In exchange for additional financial support for Cell C, TPC increased its non-controlling 49.53% stake to 53.57%, representing a majority shareholding.

In October 2023, the MVNO confirmed a cyberattack that caused service disruptions for millions of its customers globally. Except for the United States, Australia, Ukraine, and Tunisia, all Lyca Mobile markets experienced these issues. 

South Africa has been one of the continent's major players in Internet connectivity over the years. The country scored 100 points in the Africa e-Connectivity Index 2021 and was ranked 52nd in the world regarding broadband speeds as of August 2023. 

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