Vodacom has a growing battery theft and vandalism problem

Mobile operator Vodacom says it continues to lose hundreds of millions of rand each year to vandalism and battery theft at its towers across the country. The net result is a blackout in the affected area.

Andries Delport, Vodacom’s chief technology officer (CTO) said at media round-table in Sandton on Thursday that as many as 500 towers are impacted each month over a network exceeding 14,000 base stations.

Deloprt said that where people take batteries, they also steal solar panels, while generators are also a target at times when Eskom implements load-shedding.

Vodacom said it will spend north of R9 billion on its network in 2019. The group is losing between R120-R130 million to vandalism and theft each year, with between 1,500 – 2,00 batteries stolen each month, Delport said.

He said that the group is in the process of replacing lead–acid batteries, with more expensive lithium-ion batteries, which are  significantly more expensive, but are easier to recharge, and will last longer – up to 10 years.

MTN

MTN said last week, that it has had to deploy security guards to mobile towers across the country, as it continues to lose millions of rands to theft and vandalism.

In response to emailed questions from BusinessTech, MTN said that security officer deployments vary from day to day based on repair times.

It said that these deployments range from three days to over 30 days depending on the amount of damaged caused by the criminals.

“On average a compliment of over 150 security officers are deployed nationally per shift,” MTN said.

“These deployments excluded our tactical security interventions, we’re unable to provide figures due to confidentiality on deployments.”

The operator said that it was losing millions of rands to battery thieves. The company said that the worst-hit areas are currently Soweto, Tembisa, Vereeniging and Parktown – however, it noted that this is a national problem affecting all mobile networks.

“Battery theft and related vandalism is costing MTN hundreds of millions of rand and the impact on the entire industry is exorbitant,” said Ernest Paul, GM of network operations at MTN.

“Recent data shows MTN had 733 batteries stolen from its sites across the country in April.”

Paul said that there is a high cost to customers and network providers each time a battery is stolen, because as many as 4-16 batteries need to be replaced at each site.


Read: Hundreds of security guards are now guarding South African cellphone towers from criminals

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Vodacom has a growing battery theft and vandalism problem