by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – MTN has in the past week recovered cellphone tower batteries worth almost R1 million, thanks to the involvement of police, security personnel and ordinary South Africans.
This follows recent focused attention on the theft of equipment at its sites.
The positive developments are complemented by the arrest of five men and the recovery of around 65 cell tower back-up batteries worth an estimated R1,9 million in May.
Some batteries were reportedly stolen in Midrand in this case, and the suspects were tracked all the way to Rosettenville, where a cache of stolen batteries was found.
“These recent breakthroughs show the power of collaboration,” said MTN General Manager: Network Operations, Ernest Paul.
“This could not have happened without communities working together and we now need to ensure this type of action continues and is expanded more broadly to other areas nationally.”
Paul said the industry was under pressure to deal with improving security to curb theft of batteries and vandalism as well as paying increasing amounts to replace batteries and repair damage.
He said the cost to fix those towers which can be brought back online, is as much as R350 million.
MTN has already fixed 100 sites at “considerable cost”, according to the executive.
“These costs to date have been incurred by the network operators but may need to be passed onto the consumer if the mounting theft continues.”
MTN data shows that as many as 89 cell towers across the country are currently on hold as they await replacement batteries and maintenance fixes.
Worse, 53 base stations have been completely destroyed and have had to be terminated nationally. Of these, 39 are in Tshwane and 15 in Johannesburg.
Paul said the situation left many South Africans without access to network services.
“This impacts on consumer’s access to emergency services, effective business operations and connecting with loved ones,” he lamented.
A loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people at any given time.
– CAJ News