Despite significant investments in battery backup systems and generators, MTN’s mobile sites continue to face significant threats, due to Eskom’s ongoing load shedding and in particular the introduction of stage six load shedding.

The majority of MTN’s sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on-site to run the systems for several hours when local power goes down. However, the frequency of load shedding is resulting in batteries not having enough time to recharge.

“These batteries generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge, which in stage three and four load shedding is simply not happening. This situation is exacerbated with the introduction of stage six load shedding  ” explains Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, MTN SA.

The constant outages are starting to have a direct impact on the performance of the batteries. If stage six outages continue, the battery’s integrity is compromised because of the insufficient time to recharge and due to the excessive drain on the battery.

Excluding the amount spent on new batteries for new cell phone sites, MTN spent around R300 million in 2018 on batteries for existing sites. In addition to the batteries, MTN has 1800 generators currently in use.

Another significant additional cost of the load shedding is the extra on-site security that is needed to protect the batteries, generators and general site equipment from thieves and vandals. Network operators across the country have been battling sophisticated syndicates that have been stealing batteries daily. However, load shedding is seeing entire neighbourhoods cloaked in darkness at predictable times, which is offering criminals greater cover for their thieving.

The extent of the outages has placed a significant strain on MTN’s overall network resources and teams have had to be reassigned from growth projects to emergency management of sites, due to the load shedding.

MTN is currently sourcing additional generators to support existing infrastructure. Site output is being managed to further enhance efficiencies and regional “war rooms” have been established to ensure we have an hour-by-hour account of our systems – so we can do all we can to keep our customers connected.

“Teams of technicians are being redeployed as and where required additional shifts are being added to restore and maintain connectivity, as quickly as possible, for our customers”, concludes O’Sullivan.

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