Load shedding has been massively disruptive, says Vodacom

Shameel Joosub, the CEO of Vodacom. Picture: File

Shameel Joosub, the CEO of Vodacom. Picture: File

Published Oct 13, 2023


Load shedding had been hugely disruptive to all businesses, but particularly to the telco industries, Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said.

Speaking at the Western Cape Premier Alan Winde's 26th Energy Digicon yesterday, Joosub said the telco industry had more than 20 000 sites across the country.

“If you think about this situation in your house or building and times (multiply) it by 20 000, that is the problem for the telco industry. It has been very disruptive. The other reality and what we are seeing is that when there is load shedding, we actually see an increase in traffic because customers then actually go into using more of the networks. But then there is an expectation that communication is there during load shedding,” he said.

He said industry had had to invest heavily in back-up power solutions.

“As an industry we have probably invested over R10 billion. At Vodacom we invested R4bn in the last four years and another R1bn this year both in batteries and carrying an incremental cost on fuel. As the fuel price increases more as seen recently, that all has an impact on us because we now are very dependent on the fuel. As an industry we have been trying to reduce our carbon footprint but this has of course delayed that quite significantly.”

Joosub said they needed better planning from the government and Eskom.

He said if they had more information about future load shedding, even the information was not 100% correct, it would help them to plan because they would know where they needed to add more batteries, where they needed more generators.

“As you can imagine there is a huge logistical part if you are looking at 20 000 sites you need to get to. The operators have this complexity that they are constantly dealing with.”

From a proactive perspective, he said that many telcos offices had installed solar power.

At Vodacom, MTN and Telkom every available rooftop was converted into a solar power source to cater for data centres on different campuses around the country, he said.

Joosub said a virtual wheeling platform offered some answers to load shedding.

He explained the concept: “We will do a pilot as Vodacom, then the rest of the industry can follow. This pilot could then be used for multiple corporations to be able to do it. Basically, we go and sign up with the Independent Power Producer (IPP), commit our balance sheet then contribute the power to Eskom for which they pass us the credit.

“The wheeling platform allows for these credits to be passed. It is actually designed to look at what we are consuming and what we are contributing,” he said.

“It also provides a blueprint for other South African corporates to adopt, as we pool our collective resources with the common objective of bringing an end to load shedding. The virtual wheeling solution has the potential to be fast-tracked, depending on the available licensed capacity of IPPs.”

Vodacom the platform could be used by the government, with Eskom, to alleviate load shedding.