MTN fighting “ongoing battle” to keep its network online

  • MTN has given an update on its progress to mitigate the impact of loadshedding on its network.
  • It says it has installed nearly 900 generators and 20 000 batteries at sites across the country.
  • The firm is investing around R5 billion to keep its customers connected during what CEO Charles Molapisi calls an “ongoing battleagainst power outages.

The costly war of fighting loadshedding continues for MTN with the telecom announcing significant progress in its efforts to keep its network online during power outages. Without power to its sites, including towers, MTN is unable to distribute its services to customers, which include telecom Cell C whose own network is virtually distributed using MTN’s infrastructure.

On Wednesday, it reported that it has now installed 20 000 batteries, 5 000 rectifiers and “near on” 900 generators at its infrastructure sites across the country as part of a R5 billion investment to keep its network from being brought down by loadshedding.

In August alone, MTN claims it has completed in the region of 2 000 site enhancements, surpassing set targets. To date, more than 5 000 sites have been successfully upgraded as part of the national resilience programme in key regions across South Africa.

This programme encompasses several infrastructure upgrades such as battery replacements, rectifier swaps, backup generator installations, and site security measures to safeguard both active and passive infrastructure.

A rectifier is an electronic device that converts an alternating current into a direct current. MTN told Hypertext that it gets alternating current (AC) from Eskom and direct current (DC) from its batteries, so it uses the rectifiers to convert AC to DC depending on what is deployed at the site.

“While there was a brief respite in the second quarter of 2023 with a reduction in loadshedding compared to the first quarter, power outages continued to pose a significant challenge to our operations. During the first half of 2022, there were 68 days with loadshedding, but this figure nearly tripled to 181 days in that same period this year,” said MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi.

Molapisi warned that while the firm is tackling power outages head-on with sweeping investments and upgrades to sites, the spectre of vandalism remains a concern. The chief executive explains that vandals and criminals are targetting MTN infrastructure under the cover of darkness brought on by loadshedding.

“The equipment installed at these cellphone towers, including copper cables, batteries, air conditioners, and generators, is highly coveted by criminals, who inflict significant damage on network infrastructure, leading to tower malfunctions and disruptions,” explains the telco in a press release sent to Hypertext.

Molapisi says that criminal activity continues to inflict deteriorating network experiences on customers. Between the loadshedding, installation of new equipment at sites and dealing with the criminal element, Molapisi says that MTN is “an ongoing battle” to keep its network online.

“But looking at recent figures we are seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. For example, he shared that thanks to ongoing investments network availability across the country has improved by 15 percent.

One of these investments includes the launching of a hybrid solar and wind renewable energy generation project at its Johannesburg offices. This small plant will also make use of gas and battery storage systems to mitigate loadshedding and also work towards reducing the firm’s carbon emissions.

“Our efforts and the results we’re seeing underscore our dedication to ensuring uninterrupted connectivity, even in the face of loadshedding challenges, to ensure that all can share in the benefits of a modern connected life”, concludes Molapisi. 

[Image – Photo by Vyacheslav Shatskiy on Unsplash]


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