According to the four cellphone networks, because of load shedding there often was not enough time to charge up the back-up batteries at the cell towers. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus
Cape Town - Eskom’s rolling blackouts have had a severe impact on cellular network service providers. According to the four cellphone networks, because of load shedding there often was not enough time to charge up the back-up batteries at the cell towers.

MTN said despite significant investments in battery back-up systems and generators, MTN’s mobile sites continued to face significant threats due to ongoing load shedding.

MTN SA’s executive of corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan, said: “These batteries generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge. The constant outages are starting to have a direct impact on the performance of the batteries. If outages continue, the battery’s integrity is compromised because of insufficient time to recharge and due to the excessive drain on the battery.”

Excluding the amount spent on new batteries for new cellphone sites, MTN spent around R300million in 2018 on batteries for existing sites. In addition to the batteries, MTN has added 1800 generators.

A Vodacom spokesperson said: “Vodacom spends significant amounts on back-up power solutions such as diesel generators and batteries to maintain power to our sites. Additional input costs and revenue losses amount to tens of millions of rand.

“Once power is fully depleted, the tower stops working entirely and, depending on the configuration of nearby towers, may cause a coverage area to black out entirely, or customers to experience intermittent service.”

Cell C said load shedding had significantly increased operational costs associated with keeping base stations alive and protected, as well as negatively impacting customers.

Cell C’s acting chief technical officer, Schalk Visser, said: “During extended periods of power failures, back-up systems are not sufficient, resulting in a negative impact on customers as well as impact on revenues.”

Telkom spokesperson Nomalungelo Faku said load shedding also had an impact on their network: “It puts significant pressure on our resources, both human and financial.”

Data analyst at World Wide Worx Bryan Turner said: “The network providers have their hands tied.”

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Cape Argus