FILE PHOTO: A worker walks past an outlet of South Africa's MTN Group in Johannesburg, South Africa
FILE PHOTO: A worker walks past an outlet of South Africa's MTN Group in Johannesburg, South Africa

MTN's increased cell tower security pays off

By Philippa Larkin Time of article published Feb 19, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Mobile operator MTN said in a statement yesterday its efforts in increasing security measures to prevent battery theft and vandalism at cell tower base stations was paying off, despite theft incidents on the rise. It had introduced high tech solutions and on the ground strategies. 

As many as 143 batteries, worth R1.2 million, were recovered in January 2020, it said. 

The theft of back-up batteries and vandalism of infrastructure leads to increased strain on the network by forcing mobile operators to deactivate heavily-affected base stations with both Vodacom and MTN calling on the public to report people who are operating as part of a syndicate, by reporting theft to the police or through various tip-off lines. 

A total of 338 batteries worth R4m stolen from MTN base stations were recovered in July last year, with 275 batteries worth almost R3m recovered in September. 

The number of arrests also ticked up appreciably to an annual high of 22 in September, it said. MTN said three suspects were apprehended in October last year in a joint operation between Bidvest Protea Coin and the SA Police Service. 

“A total of eight MTN lithium ion batteries and eight Telkom lead acid batteries were recovered, and sentences of between 5 to 10 years were meted out by the magistrate on January 28 for the offence of tampering with essential infrastructure.” Ernest Paul, MTN general manager: network operations, said: “A lot more work needs to be done to stay a step ahead, especially as vandalism at base stations can keep many consumers off-line for long periods, or even completely destroy the base station, leaving people with no access at all.” 

Recent statistics showed 703 batteries were stolen from MTN stations in January 2020, with a total of 122 incidents. Cable theft also increased over December and January, with 109 incidents in January.


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