Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Ineptitude, thy name is Cell C!

OK, it's official...the Cell C "whoosh" wireless connection thingie sucks. Big time. Constant drop outs, reconnects that don't actually reconnect to the network. Long dead times while you connect, reconnect, and reconnect again. Save your money and stay away from this turkey! This review is based on the following, an experience capping seven days of drop outs, emails lost in the ether, and endlessly repeated reconnections (which are not automatic…every time it drops out, you have to go into a window and reconnect manually).

Wednesday, 8 December, 2010

One (1) Cell C Speed Stick and one (1) Dell laptop computer.

Speed Stick loses connection to the Internet at 12:26 pm: it can connect to the Cell C network but is unable to download any data from the web (meaning it cannot even refresh an open page, like the email).

For testing purposes, a second Speed Stick is plugged into a ThinkPad laptop: it connects to the network but it also cannot download any data from the web.

Forty (40) minutes and nine (9) telephone calls to Cell C result in seven (7) transfers to technical assistance that went into endless selection loops or that were cut off, and one (1) person who gave us a telephone number for Tech support, which we had to dial ourselves because transfers go into an endless selection loop.

Fifty (50) minutes after the things stopped working, connection to a technician who, for some bizarre reason, seemed to think that fiddling with the Internet Options settings on one of the computers will resolve a problem affecting two (2) computers and two (2) sticks.

At 1:36…one hour and ten minutes (1/10) after the data stopped flowing, the tech support person refers the problem to the Network Services department and tells us someone will call us back.

Seventy (70) minutes chewed up to find out that not only does Cell C not know why my Speed Sticks are not working, but to learn that Cell C itself does not even know its network has a problem!

At 1:56 the signal is intermittently back. But it comes and goes, causing the light on the stick to cycle randomly through green/blue/indigo/dead without warning.

This wasn’t my idea and, believe it or not, Telkom and an ISP that is growing too fast for its own good (and efficiency) is a better option. Save your money until Cell C can tell, without you wasting an hour on the phone (at Telkom rates), that there is something is wrong, wrong, wrong with their network!

Hubby, hear my plea! Take this turkey back to the farm for a refund and give me my ADSL back!!


  1. Hi. Could you kindly send your contact details to so that we can investigate the problem. Regards Karin

  2. I have emailed you so you can contact me. But I don't know what good "investigating" the problem will do unless you a)fix the phone tree so it doesn't keep going into endless loops so that the caller has to disconnect and start over again; b)tell the techs to stop asking for a telephone number for a device that has no telephone number (clue: the sticks need unique ID numbers printed on them); c)fix your phone network so that it stops dropping calls (we were calling from a Telkom line so it wasn't us!); d)get technical support people who understand that when a customer is reporting problem with your network, the problem is NOT in the customer's computer (ie, TWO Speedsticks on TWO different computers are experiencing the same problem...what is the likelihood the problem resides in ONE of the computers???); and e) give your technicians some means of monitoring the actual network itself rather than making a customer call NINE TIMES and pay Telkom connect prices for FORTY minutes just to convince you guys that YOUR network is being flaky. If you can do these things, then your "investigation" might bear fruit. If you can't, then you are wasting your time, just as mine was wasted this afternoon.

    Cell C does not have the sweetest reputation in its industry and my experiences today showcase exactly why.

    Oh...and how about printing a Helpline number on the stick??? When the stick isn't working, I can't get on the internet to get your phone number, you know...

  3. My goodness. That's so infuriating!

  4. Hmmm, was considering to get this for my gf, but after reading this i'm not so sure anymore... anyone else have the same opinion?

  5. When it works it is brilliant. When it doesn't work, well...I don't think your experience will be any better than mine was unless somebody 1) fixes the phone tree so you don't get stuck in infinite loops; 2) educates the "customer service" reps about dealing with a problem that is not on their scripts; 3) gets tech support guys who can do more than follow a list of procedures (which, in fact, have NOTHING to do with the network crashing).

    If you buy this product and you are lucky, you won't have any drop outs for the whole length of your contract and this will never happen to you. If you are NOT lucky, you will have an experience similar to mine. What do you think the odds are that you will not, in the course of a year, have your Cell C signal to the Stick drop out for longer than a minute or two?

    Oh...and for the record, I did send Cell C an email in response to their comment on this blog. And I got a response. Their response? "What is your contact information?" And what, pray tell, is my personal email address if it is not "contact information"???

    Absolutely USELESS, the lot of them!

  6. Here are some comments on the Speedstick from a forum:;!!!-Paulshof-Sandton"

  7. I bought the 5 Gig offering from Cell C, as iBurst is SO S L O W these days and I've decided to discontinue their "services". I have a 98% signal from Cell C (Ferndale) and the colours on the modem flash from deep blue to Cyan. I'm also suffering from dropped internet access but when it works, about 90% of the time, the download speeds are fantastic, 500K to 960K per second so far. I'm using Windows 7 Ultimate but it works on my other PC's using XP SP3. Maybe they will do a software upgrade soon but I'm enjoying Whoosh (so far)

  8. Stop getting your panties in a twist. Virgin and Cell-C had the same problem. You american's are quite quick to jump on a high horse and jugger off into a meaningless direction. Calm down, breathe in...and out... and relax, take a sip of your cold-tea and try again. No use getting upset or furious.

  9. It is attitudes such as this that entrench the crappy service delivery in this country. As long as recipients of poor service sit on their duffs and wait it out, "try again," and don't speak up, service providers have no motivation whatsoever to improve their service since people appear to be satisfied with the abysmal levels they are providing.

    Just FYI, yesterday the stick shut itself off four times and I had to manually reconnect. One of those four times it decided to reinstall its driver software. In fact, on a computer that has been running the stick daily for more than a month, it still reinstalls its driver software several times a if there was no software already on the computer!

    This product should not have been released to the public in its present condition. I'd be OK with the problems if it was FREE and I was informed that I was BETA testing it. But to experience service dropouts that last for hours, to deal with customer service people who literally have NO CLUE about the product or even their own network, and to pay handsomely for the privilege is just wrong.

  10. its your dell computer. i have the same problem with my dell. It works perfect in my mac, and my pc. i bought a 3g wireless router (similar to the adsl routers except there is a usb port for the 3g modem) and now i have superfast internet at home!

    also its a bit harsh to throw out such condemnation without a little bit of troubleshooting. Sure in a perfect world huawei and cell c would have known they would have problems in dell laptops and fixed it before they released it, reality bites.


  11. Steve, my husband has a ThinkPad and has the same problem with the white stick that I do. The black stick is a bit faster and doesn't crash as often, but neither of them are particularly reliable on either computer.

    But, even if the problem IS the Dell, that doesn't explain or excuse the bone-deep stupidity and incompetence of the company's call centre. No matter what kind of computer these little widgets are plugged into, the techs in tech support should be able to find their bums with both hands without a customer leading them to their target. It's disgraceful and until and unless Cell C improves their customer support, it will be a cold day in hell before I buy another thing from them.

    DEFY, the appliance manufacturer, is in the same dogbox as Cell C with me and if I live to be 110, after my nightmarish experience with their customer support, I'll never send another cent in their direction: it could be that I just got a bad refrigerator and all the rest of their products are could be that my Dell is causing the problems with the stick...but in both cases, that is actually unimportant because the customer service is so execrable that they have driven me away from their products which, in my experience, have performed dismally below even the most modest expectations.

  12. You're right, it's not Dell; the Huawei stick causes the computer to shut down any time I try to open Google and Gmail, and I have a Macbook Pro that is less than a year old.

    I called Applecare and they said they were hearing this complaint about Huawei sticks all over the place.

    And perhaps "we Americans" get our panties in a twist because we actually expect companies to deliver on their promises and to provide reliable service. What a novel concept.

  13. I was just thinking about getting this Whoosh thing, I am not so sure anymore!

  14. I reported this to Hello Peter when I spent an entire day with a miserably slow EDGE connection..."whoosh" my ass...anything slower than EDGE and you are off line. Cell C responded right away...but they DID nothing. We had a couple of phone calls from someone at head office who, after hearing what happened, said someone from the technical group would call us...never happened. It's been over a week and the tech guys have yet to call.

    That makes 3 contacts about these problems with Cell C and NOTHING has been done. Yesterday I had to manually reconnect three times...there was a day last week I had to do it five times and it went down in the middle of sending an email to someone overseas...lost the whole mail. Another time it locked up my computer in the middle of sending something. This should NEVER have been released to the public as a finished product, it should have gone out as a Beta product because it DOES NOT WORK AS ADVERTISED!

  15. Preach that word, sister. I also got the call assuring me someone from tech would's been three days and I'm not holding my breath.

  16. You go sweet violet!!! I am having exactly the same shit and it is just a day old... To make matters worse I am only meters away from their main signal tower.

  17. Yup...this piece of crap went off line yesterday evening and didn't give me more than 20 minutes of connectivity (in TOTAL) until about noon today.

    Did you try calling their tech support? Such a joke that is.

    Somebody should send a link to this blog entry to Trevor Noah and see what he has to say...

  18. I'm having EXACTLY THE SAME ISSUES!!!
    It's so frustrating... dropped connections... cannot reconnect ridiculously slow speeds... issues all the time! And I'm supposed to be using this as my work connection.
    I have emailed support twice and got no response... HOWEVER they have called me to say they were in my area to check signal and that they'd call me back once they were testing - NO RESPONSE! I'm finding them absolutely USELESS...
    Does anyone have the actual technical support phone number??? Tried going through the customer care number and there are just loads of options which are useless!!!

  19. At least i'm not the "only one". Have been having issues for weeks now. Have uninstalled and installed again, still sit with the same frustration!! When i got the stick a few months ago it was super... super fast, no issues and a pleasure. Now all of a sudden i can hardly connect and when i can i only connect to Edge. I might as well walk to fetch my info, as i'd get there quicker. Lets see if can help me... i reacon... NOT!

  20. Sweet Violet, have you tried taking your laptop with usb stick to a store?

    I'm not saying that's the solution, but may be a win win.

  21. We know what the problem is. We have two laptops and we have two sticks. It doesn't matter which laptop is using which stick, when the problems happen, they happen to BOTH laptops and BOTH sticks.

    Logically speaking, this rules out either laptop as the problem...and, barring the possibility that the sticks are badly engineered, rules out the sticks as well. What does this leave as the source of the problem? The crappy, unreliable network they operate on.

    The second part of the problem is totally clueless, completely doff "customer support." The tech support staff knows NOTHING about these sticks and even less about bone-basic troubleshooting. When you have two different laptops and two different sticks experiencing the exact same problem in the same location, the most likely culprit is NOT one of the computers, it is either a badly engineered piece of equipment (but the sticks are not the same...I have the smaller capacity, my husband has the larger one) or it is the network that serves BOTH sticks...which are showing identical problems. The tech could not even do that basic little bit of logic and wanted me to screw around with my internet settings!!

    No, you can tell what kind of connectivity you have with these things by looking at the colour of the light on the stick. No light is disconnected (it disconnects itself at will, sometimes as much as 5 times im 7 hours); green light means you are connected via EDGE (you can print out and walk and email across the room faster than EDGE can find and send it); cyan light is fast connection; indigo light indicates the stick is connected to the network but data transfer speed is 0.0bps. My sticks cycle between indigo and cyan, which means if the stick decides to cycle in the middle of a download, upload, or refresh, data disappears. In the course of typing this response it has gone from cyan to indigo 3 times...I have to wait until it is cyan again (which could be as long as 10 minutes) to post this or it will not go...the browser will time out and my answer will be lost unless I copy it into the buffer, which is what I have to do before sending.

    The store can't do anything about it...and neither can Cell C because they don't know what is wrong because their customer service people are clueless and useless and their tech support doesn't know enough to check to see if the network is functioning when this kind of complaint comes in, they think there is something wrong with the computer it's hooked up to.

    DO NOT BUY THIS THING. It is a waste of money and will drive you up with wall with frustration!

  22. UM!!! I wish I had known all this before I purchased mine today... I cant stay connected for more than 5 Min?????? What the Hek? What now? Aaaargh... I cant work like this!!

  23. So! I manage to find out more details (it is network coverage)... and here's my letter to Trevor:

    "I purchased my 5Gig datastick a few months ago - being PROMISED high speed internet access.
    I have COMPLETELY WASTED my money!!!
    From day 1 I have battled to connect!
    Customer support/service is absolutely USELESS! Phone calls just end up lost or on hold or hung up. NOT ACCEPTABLE!
    There is no direct technical support number and in general NO HELP from Cell C whatsoever.
    I have emailed support 3 times but have not had 1 reply!
    I am EXTREMELY disappointed and frustrated to say the least and will never buy another Cell C product nor recommend it to anybody.

    I did manage to find out what the problem was however.
    One of your area testers called when he was in the area to test and said he would phone back with results. I never got a phone call back (surprise)... so today I looked up his number on my phone and called him back.
    He was extremely helpful (the first helpful person in this whole process!).

    I work either from home or another location. At home calls drop out but data speed (when it works) is somewhat acceptable (definitely not super fast or whoooshh). At the other location I can barely connect and speeds, when connected, are absolutely ridiculous.

    Jonothan (the area tester) informed me, after looking up details of the area tests, that after testing they had found that the connection was EXTREMELY SLOW in my area BUT that there were plans for new sites to be put up in the area which would increase the signal. Of course, he was unable to say when the 'planned sites' would actually be sorted out - I'd have to phone the call center (the same people who couldn't help me for a simple query) for that.

    I spent R3000 on a datastick that is rendered almost useless due to the inefficient network!
    Is this not considered FALSE ADVERTISING on your part?
    Time to look up more details on the consumer protection act...

    By the way... as I type - this internet page is still loading..."

  24. Oh and btw there is apparently "no technical support number"..
    No no... when you eventually get hold of a consultant the only thing they can do is put you through to technical support (be prepared to be put on hold for an eternity) because they don't have a number for them... Like SERIOUSLY? I kid you not...

  25. I tried to send a message to Trevor Noah via the website this morning but I had an indigo light on my stick, so I had to wait for nearly ten minutes to get the cyan light that means my data will transfer. So, they will receive two mails today on this topic.

    I really DO feel your pain, TLR. If it helps any, you and I are not alone in this...I posted the initial blog entry nearly two months ago and I am still getting comments from unhappy customers, got one this morning. Hopefully, people will do an internet search on this thing BEFORE they buy and happen on this blog...and all of the supporting comments from other users...and think twice about plunking down their money.

    But, to address your comment here indicates typically crappy service but they are located within sight distance of a Cell C tower...coverage issues is not the only problem (you can get them to install a signal booster on your house if you lean hard enough on them...Vodacom did that for me in Cape Town when it turned out I could only use my Vodacom phone OUTSIDE because of poor signal strength). We don't have a sighting or signal strength problem, we have a problem with signal disappearing...then reappearing...then disappearing again. In the time it took me to type that last sentence, I've seen my signal light go from cyan to indigo and back three times!! Indigo means no data transmission, even though the stick is technically connected.

    If you get any actual action (forget the phone calls...promises with no follow through is the norm), please update us here. It will give the rest of us hope!

  26. Cell C is absolutely useless. I got my 2G (white) stick today and it is SUPER SLOW.
    Wish I had read this before I got it.
    P.s. I am using my Vodacom stick now.

  27. Hi SV,

    I must agree with you, I'm sitting with a similar problem with my Cell C Wooshless sick.

    My stick connects always on WCDMA(94-98% signal), then changes to HSPA+(98-99% signal), even at these signal strenghts my speed is rubbish! Plus everytime it drops from HSPA+ to WCDMA my connection stays alive, yet no data flows. I now always have command prompt open pinging google to see if my "connection" is actually connected.
    I've phoned Cell C 4 times (2 hours of my life wasted) and nothing has been resolved, they promised to phone me back as their "changes" will take 47-72 hours, and I've recieved nothing. I then emailed them, got no reply 24hours later, so I mailed them again.

    This is truly rubbish service.

    Good luck with your troubles, and thanks for the Blog!


    John "Wooshless"

  28. "Whooshless"...I LOVE it!!

    Yah, mine goes to that "connected but no data flowing" condition multiple times per hour...sometimes multiple times in a single minute! Last night about 7:30 it went brain dead on me, I actually had to disconnect the stick and reconnect it...improved matters for a little while, but by 9:30 it was hopeless, so I shut it off and went to watch rubbish on TV.

    The evening dropouts are particularly onerous for me because that is when my US family and friends are on's morning for them. Daylight dropouts get in the way of conducting business (I stay home, but somebody has to source repairmen, supplies, and other stuff for the house, ya know?).

    I sent an email to "Trevor" yesterday...still no reply. Does this country have a law about false advertising?? Hmmm...I have a friend in the Ministry of Trade or whatever it is called...maybe I should ask her...

  29. Hey there, can't we do like a petition?? I have the same problems as you guys and Cell C pretends as if they assist, but no assistance they give you resolves the problem!!! Myself an owner of a black Cell C Slowstick. What do you say, let's start a chain letter! Would love to teach Cell C a lesson because they wasted our money! Was there again this morning and all I hear is excuses!


  30. That's not a bad idea. Would we circulate it via email or post it on Facebook or what? What do you think it should say, when do you think we should close it for signatures and who/where in Cell C should it go?

    I've sent Cell C a link to this blog and specifically suggested they read the comment section...nobody seems to be listening!

  31. I was actually gona buy this thing but I guess thats not the best idea. Anyone have any experiences with Neotel stuff cos I really dont want a fixed line?

  32. Dont feel so bad, my Vodacom one does the same. It only works properly after 10pm, when most other users have gone to bed. Then its like driving on the highway at 2am. No traffic and you can go really fast. Was thinking about a woosh but now not so sure.

  33. It is, of course, up to you. But if you read the comments of this blog, you'll find a preponderance of comments are critical.

    Last weekend they "upgraded" their network. Now it works worse and my ability to access technical or customer support has completely disappeared.

    The stick was off line from 11h15 yesterday until 21h00 yesterday in my area...the NETWORK is a large part of the problem and their "upgrade" to their network has resulted in a complete cessation of service for hours at a time, interspersed with wildly fluctuating signal levels that sometimes require rebooting the stick manually several times per day. If this is better than your Vodacom thingie, go for it. But do not expect to speak to a live human being when you call Cell C because they've got everything routed to automated "instructions" that don't address your problem...and the new option for people who are having trouble with their whoosh stick gives you 30 seconds of silence, then literally goes nowhere.

    It's your money and your peace of mind but I have to tell you, this was a gross, gross, gross waste of money. I actually want Helkom and its ADSL was better and more reliable!!

  34. I got the 24gig package for gaming, because they were advertising quite high speeds.
    Took me no more than half an hour to set it up, but after using for 10 minutes I knew deep down that I'd probably have to return it.

    I had the white modem and it kept on disconnecting, it was so slow even though I was in a covered area. I spent hours trying to fix the thing by testing on different computers, ports and even using extension cables to get better signal but it sucked, it didn't improve one bit.

    I only got to experience 2Mb/s speeds for about 5 minutes out of the many hours i was fiddling with it.

    Then I read that I should maybe get a 3g router or antenna so suddenly I must get extra gear?

    I called hello peter, they did reply in a few days but the problem is the 7 day return period is too short, otherwise I could've waited.

    I would've been patient with cell c if I didn't need the 3g stick, but in my case I was looking to replace my current provider and unfortunately I got more hassle from this cell c 3g than was worth it.

    On top of that their call center takes long, but I think the way to bypass that is by pressing 9 or 0 repetitively, which would've been nice had I known that.

    I can't blame the store staff, they're just there to sell the device.

    I think the following is happening
    1.Cell c is trying to get as many people to buy the device, hence the 7 day return period and few months down the line their service doesn't improve so it's too late to return

    2.Cell c is trying to fix the issues, better than neotel imo

    3.The future will test Cell C, if they can maintain the network as I'm sure there will be challenges as with any isp.

    Peace, I actually hope it works out for Cell C, rather have competition and options than have a monopoly like Telkom.

  35. I'll add my woes to the list. I live and Westdene and have 98% HSPA access most of the time, so coverage is not a problem. BUT surfing the net is impossible! I can reach download speeds of 2MbS, but opening google can take 2 minutes plus, if it opens at all.

  36. In theory, I have no problem with monopolies: as long as they provide their service well at a reasonable price and operate with integrity, I am ok them.

    Anonymous in Westdene: I live in Sandton less than 5kms from Cell C's HQ on Rivonia Road; my husband works in Sunninghill, less than 5 km from our home. Today, my husband had virtually no connectivity at all and when I had it, mostly I had EDGE, which is so slow that my Google mail thought I had a dial up connection and switched me to its "simpler" version!

    I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the worst part of this is neither the crappy service nor the false advertising...the worst part of it is that Cell C has so effectively isolated itself from its customer base that we cannot even report problems most of the time; and when we CAN report them, there is no one who talks to customers who has the authority to do ANYTHING that is not on one of their prepared scripts. So, if you call (or email) with a problem they have not already thought up and prepared a script to deal with, you get a response that is totally unrelated to your query...and THEY count that as a "resolution."

    Every time I have to call them, I come out of the experience feeling like I fell down the rabbit hole!!

  37. Had a problem with Nashua supplied Vodacom stick, it was Nashua support, not Vodacom. Bought Cell C Whoosh - wait forever to get a page uploaded. Switch to Vodacom - no problem. So I agree Cell C sucks.
    I'm going to have to put up with the Nashua/Vodacom service for now but will be going to straight Vodacom in June when my contract expires.
    God, I hate paying for things that never live up to the hype.

  38. Well, I experienced a 4 hour drop out this week which put a HUGE dent in my business activities...I have a flat up for rent and because it is near the end of the month, I am getting a lot of calls. Unfortunately, with the stick dead, I had no email capability so I couldn't sent out application forms (necessary in order for me to do a credit check). My hubby sent the forms out from his work computer, but then, of course, I couldn't receive them back nor could I do a credit check on even if he had brought me hard copies. This is more than just a pain in the arse, now it is potentially costing me large sums of money (more than we spent on the sticks!)

    We are going back to ADSL. You can get a refund on the sticks...Cell C has offered to refund us after our hideous experiences with them. But you will have to be diligent and persistent to get them to agree. We are keeping them until our ADSL is in and then, back they go.

    Why don't you report Cell C to the ASA (Advertising Standards)? You can do it on line...simply say that they are engaging in false advertising because the product does not perform as advertised. I am going to do it, and if enough of us complain, the ASA can force them to stop advertising this thing until it DOES work!

  39. Shoo started thinking it was only me ... i have been struggling these past 2 days (it's been the worst so far) ... but I have experienced all of these things as well ... I would just like to know if anyone else has the problem that if you are doing certain things on your computer (for instance i play online games) the stick just shuts your computer off??? It happens to me at least twice a day and is incredibly frustrating!!!

  40. Sloth--I haven't had it shut my computer off, but it has locked it up. My best suggestion now is to log a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority ( and complain about false advertising because this device does NOT work as advertised and it is their advertising that induced you to buy it. They need to stop using the word "whoosh" because that implies immense speed and that just is NOT true! Good luck...and maybe you can get a refund if you take it back to the store? Worth a try, yes?

  41. Violet
    Like many before me I am having identical issues. Just 2 things:
    1)Well done for bitch slapping cell c for their poor performance. Even if the network is shitty they should be supplying excellent customer service or complaints resolutions.

    2) Well done to cell c for having the balls to be the first to take a step back from raping and pillaging the poor consumer by offering a fantastic alternative to the other shareholder hugging networks.

    Lastly, lets vote with our wallets, eventually it will make a difference

  42. I'm not sure whether I was relieved or disappointed to see so many stories so similar to mine. I live in Morningside, Johannesburg and completely regret the decision to buy a 1 year contract with Cell C.

    Their data speed is pathetic - the only thing worse is their service.

    Consumers be warned!

  43. I'm your neighbour, Rob...I'm just across the Sandspruit from you. One of the FEW times I managed to get a live human being on the phone at Cell C, the guy said that because I am close to their HQ, I should not be having problems with reception (we are in a well-covered area). Their offices are on Rivonia Rd, next to the Mercedes dealer.

    My best suggestion is to log a complaint of false advertising against them with the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). This organization has teeth, is not afraid to use them, and if enough people complain to them, Cell C has GOT to listen!

    Also, you CAN get a refund. My ADSL is back today and my husband has gotten an agreement to return them for a refund (we also paid a 1 yr contract). They are NOT supplying the service they advertise...don't take it lying down because if you do, they will continue screwing South African consumers because those of us who KNOW aren't standing up and objecting.

    Good luck...and you have my sympathies!

  44. Its almost half way through the month now and I've been unable to download anything larger than 3mb. I've tried day and night without any joy. Cell C...what am I paying for here?

  45. Valuable information and excellent design you got here!

  46. Cell c and vodacom are money hungy losers


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