MTN working on a plan to solve battery recharging woes during load shedding

 ·30 Jun 2022

As load shedding escalates across the country, MTN South Africa says it is working around the clock to protect customers’ connectivity, with an aggressive rollout of batteries, generators, and alternate power supplies.

It said that advanced load shedding, however, is putting strain on its ability to recharge its batteries. As a result, the group said it is reaching out to small businesses to supply generators for its operations.

Charles Molapisi, MTN SA CEO, said MTN’s priority is keeping its customers connected and to this end, the company is exploring practical and innovative solutions to the power crisis.

“There is no doubt the country is facing a power crisis but at MTN, we want to turn this crisis into an opportunity for small businesses by ‘crowd sourcing’ generators to further support our network,” Molapisi said.

MTN is inviting all businesses that are in possession of generators, to become potential suppliers to MTN. “Whether the business has two or 20 generators, MTN is looking to partner,” it said.

Michele Gamberini, chief technology and information officer at MTN SA said increased load shedding is a challenge for battery recharging.

“Despite us having placed thousands of batteries at our sites across the country, the efficacy of those batteries greatly reduces once we pass stage 4 load shedding.”

Gamberini said MTN has upgraded its battery backup solutions on over 80% of the sites already this year and is currently deploying more additional batteries. However, MTN is still faced with the challenge that the current outage schedule does not allow enough time for batteries to charge.

“Battery back-up systems generally take 12-18 hours to recharge, while batteries have a capacity of about 6-12 hours, depending on the site category.  Consistent outages therefore have a direct impact on the performance of the batteries, while consistent theft of the batteries themselves means replacements need to be installed,” Gamberini said.

In addition to the battery rollout, MTN has also deployed over 2,000 generators to counter the impact of stage 4 (and higher) load shedding. MTN is currently using more than 400,000 litres of fuel per month, to keep these generators operational.

The operator said it has put power contingencies in place in all provinces. Some of these interventions are:

  • The establishment of “war rooms” per region with dedicated staff and network partners, focused on restoring major transmission infrastructure and base stations in the face of severe load shedding.
  • The deployment of additional emergency generators and an optimisation of the existing fleet of MTN mobile generators.
  • The withdrawal of field maintenance teams, to allow them to be redeployed to focus on site restorations.
  • The delivery of fuel to all critical facilities, to ensure all MTN data centers remain operational. MTN does not anticipate any disruptions to any facilities.

“To mitigate the risks, we have embarked on several emergency initiatives to ensure higher network resilience, despite the obstacles. We want to assure our customers that we are doing all we can to maintain connectivity during this challenging time,” said Gamberini.

Read: MTN to cover 25% of South Africa with 5G by the end of the year

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