Workers to be exempted from lockdown to keep South Africa’s phone and internet connections running

Government has committed to ensuring that South Africans will have both telephone and internet connection during South Africa’s lockdown.

“We regard digital infrastructure as a critical service and will ensure that both fixed-line and mobile telephony systems are maintained during South Africa’s 21-day lockdown,” said minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel.

“Workers and professionals connected with any of those services will be exempted from the lockdown because those are critical means of communication, but also (to provide for) economic activity that can be done from home.”

Global internet traffic has spiked due to the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of lockdowns, with a recent Delta Partners report showing some mobile operators have seen a 40% increase in voice traffic and a 25% increase in data traffic.

There was an even bigger impact on fixed networks. In some cases fixed broadband traffic increased by 65% because of the increase in video streaming.

These increased traffic volumes required network operators to increase network capacity and manage traffic loads to ensure a good customer experience.

In certain cases, spectrum had to be “borrowed” to increase service availability and mobile network capacity.


Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told MyBroadband it is faced with a situation where they need to deal with increased traffic on their network as more people observe Covid-19 protocols and work from home.

“Our focus at the moment is ensuring we have measures in place to respond to current societal challenges through our social contract,” said Kennedy.

“We will be engaging with the regulator to gain access [to] spectrum on a temporary basis as well as quicker access to sites.”

Vodacom has also taken a decision to significantly ramp up investment spend in the short term to manage network congestion.

These measures, Kennedy said, will help Vodacom to cope with the increased volume of traffic – which will ultimately ensure people working from home enjoy a seamless experience.


Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa, said they have seen an increase in traffic from both individual customers and business customers.

It is too early to definitively state the amount of data being used for work from home or e-learning situations, however.

“Most companies have only started implementing work-from-home yesterday after President Ramaphosa’s public announcement on 18 March,” said O’Sullivan.

She added that they continuously monitor their network capacity and have measures in place to deal with problems should they arise.

She encouraged customers to use LTE devices where possible and to report theft and vandalism of MTN’s infrastructure to limit network problems.

Read: Here are South Africa’s plans to deal with load shedding during the coronavirus lockdown

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Workers to be exempted from lockdown to keep South Africa’s phone and internet connections running