Durban - SOME of the country’s major cellular networks continued to face a lack of network coverage due to the ongoing load shedding, with KwaZulu-Natal among the most affected regions.
At the weekend, Eskom implemented stage 4 load shedding and for some parts of the province this not only meant being in the dark, but also being without cellphone reception.
Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said they were unable to say if there would be any load shedding today, as this was only determined in their daily meetings in the morning and afternoon.
Mthokozisi Ndlovu, a public relations specialist with MTN, said during load shedding some of its cell towers were affected resulting in degraded network connectivity.
He 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.
“Operational impact is felt where the frequency of the load shedding exceeds the capacity of the back-up devices.
“Our batteries generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours dependant on the site category and require 12-18 hours to recharge dependant on the battery technology type.”
Ndlovu said where consecutive load shedding took place, batteries were unable to fully recharge, resulting in reduced back-up times. “MTN spent more than R100 million in the past year dealing with acts of theft and vandalism.
“These crimes tend to spike during load shedding when the lack of power sees substations being vandalised for copper wire, which then further exacerbates the power supply problem when electricity is meant to be restored.
“MTN has had to deploy security teams around the country to protect the equipment at these sites, once again, at significant cost to the company.”
He said the uncertainty surrounding the envisaged stages of load shedding and duration put additional strain on the network.
“If the duration and/or frequency of the load shedding increases, the current battery back-up autonomy per site is compromised.
“The end result is increased operational costs for operators.”
He said KZN, Gauteng and northern Limpopo as well as central areas in the Free State were among the most affected by the degraded network connectivity.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said they were aware that many customers around the country experienced issues connecting to the network because of stage 4 load shedding.
“Our towers use batteries as a back- up, but these have limited power and will eventually fail. We have put proactive measures in place to help mitigate the effects of widespread load shedding.
“For instance, we have deployed generators at numerous sites across the country and are working as hard as possible to keep customers connected.
“We apologise for any inconvenience - normal service will resume once load shedding runs its course.”
Telkom spokesperson Nomalungelo Faku said most of their sites had back-up batteries on standby as well as a mobile fleet that could be despatched to sites should a need arise.
“Also note that these sites would go back to normal operation once power is restored in the area. Telkom had teams deployed across the country to ensure that customers experience as little as possible disruption.”