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MTN wants to buy generators from small businesses to keep network running

A worker sweeps outside an outlet of South Africa’s MTN Group in Johannesburg. MTN said it is reaching out to small businesses to supply generators for its operations. Picture: REUTERS, Siphiwe Sibeko.

A worker sweeps outside an outlet of South Africa’s MTN Group in Johannesburg. MTN said it is reaching out to small businesses to supply generators for its operations. Picture: REUTERS, Siphiwe Sibeko.

Published Jun 30, 2022

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As the country continues to battle load shedding implemented by Eskom, mobile operator MTN South Africa said it is working around the clock to protect customers’ connectivity, with an aggressive roll-out of batteries, generators and alternate power supplies.

MTN said it is also reaching out to small businesses to supply generators for its operations.

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

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 says.

Michele Gamberini, chief technology and Information officer at MTN SA, says 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 says MTN has upgraded its battery back-up solutions on over 80% of the sites already this year and is deploying more additional batteries.

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“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 says.

In addition to the battery roll-out, MTN has 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 a month to keep these generators operational.

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MTN 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 centres 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 we are doing all we can to maintain connectivity during this challenging time,” concludes Gamberini.

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Molapisi says as a company born out of South Africa’s democracy, MTN is tackling the load shedding crisis with a solution-orientated positive mindset that is the hallmark of so many South Africans.

“We need collective efforts to get us through this crisis and we believe that by partnering with businesses of all sizes and reach, we can support local businesses while also maintaining our best network for all our customers,” Molapisi says.

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