MTN SA investing R1.5 billion to keep network connected and counter loadshedding

  • MTN SA has announced that it is investing R1.5 billion to accelerate its network resilience drive.
  • The decision was taken as a result of persistent loadshedding and a rise on vandalism/theft.
  • MTN says the investment will help enhance network availability and stability over the long-term. 

The impact of loadshedding has been felt by all in South Africa. It is not only families and homes that have had to deal with an abnormally high amount of rolling blackouts, but businesses too. So much so that it has severely crippled the ability of many to properly operate, which is why MTN SA announced that it will be investing R1.5 billion to accelerate its network resilience drive.

Along with the persistent loadshedding, MTN SA has cited a rise in vandalism and theft as reasons to push ahead with the sizeable investment.

According to MTN SA CEO, Charles Molapisi, this nationwide programme is aimed at warding off the negative impact and frustration caused by power cuts, theft and vandalism and will help enhance network availability and stability for the company over the long-term. 

“The investment will see us installing solar power, batteries, and generators, and enhancing security features at base stations to ensure improved network availability during loadshedding, when many instances of theft and vandalism occur. In future, we expect to be completely off the grid at most sites so that these problems do not affect the quality of our service,” he explained in a press release sent to Hypertext.

“We are currently engaged with a number of critical role-players for collaborative solutions on matters related to the potential of any extended outages. Our focus is on our people and customers, fuel supply, fuel movements, security resourcing and sustaining national and emergency services,” he added.

While there is still quite a bit of work to do, MTN SA notes that as of the end of February 2023, the network availability plan has resulted in the upgrade of 3 253 sites, with a planned May completion target likely to enable significant improvement to network availability in the second half of the year.  

MTN also highlighted the fact that the Eastern Cape has been the worst affected province when it comes to the impact of loadshedding, vandalism, and theft. Here the company notes that over 390 unique sites have been vandalised since January 2022 alone, with criminals returning to the same sites over five times after each repair. 

“Another trend is that as the country hits persistently higher levels of loadshedding, the vandalism of base stations has shifted from opportunistic criminality (petty thieves breaking into the stations and sites to get what copper or metals they can get) to a more organised form of criminality being run by syndicates. They will at times disguise themselves as third-party contractors so as not to be confronted by local communities and take that opportunity to specifically steal batteries,” MTN continues.

Lastly the telecommunications giant made mention of the gazetting of a directive this week to Mobile Network Operators and to the industry regulator, ICASA, on matters related to the loadshedding crisis.  “MTN welcomes the opportunity to further engage with the regulator in the coming month, in the best interest of nation, as we navigate these challenging power-constrained times,” Molapisi said.   

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