Battery theft at base stations, mixed with inadequate charging instances as a result of frequent load-shedding periods can trigger cellular community towers to lose energy, leading to little or no mobile connectivity.

This causes frustration amongst residents who nonetheless want to talk when their fixed-line connections go down as a result of energy cuts.


While cellular towers draw energy from the electrical energy grid, all cellular community operators have contingencies for when their mobile base stations lose energy.

These embrace the set up of battery backups at cellular towers, however a number of components impression their capability to supply a dependable energy supply via energy cuts.

Factors comparable to gear theft at base stations and an incapability for batteries to recharge to full capability if the time between load-shedding periods is simply too brief can trigger towers to lose energy.

MyBroadband spoke to South Africa’s main cellular community operators about among the issues they face throughout load-shedding.

Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA Executive for Corporate Affairs

Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN SA, stated that rotational energy cuts had strained the cellular community over the previous few weeks.

“High levels of load-shedding and load reduction have added additional strain on the MTN network stability and availability during the last few weeks,” she stated.

“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.”

“Constant outages therefore have a direct impact on the performance of the batteries, while theft of the batteries themselves means replacements need to be installed,” she added.

O’Sullivan indicated that in Stage 4 load-shedding, roughly 20% of MTN’s community faces outages at any given time.

“The regions that are most heavily impacted are Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal,” she stated.

The theft of batteries at base stations has compounded the results of load-shedding on cellular towers.

“The impact is far more significant due to theft and vandalism at MTN base stations, with over 800 batteries having been stolen between June and September this year,” O’Sullivan stated.

“MTN continues to redeploy batteries and security features going into 2022, to continue improving network stability and availability.”

“However, there is a great need for more community involvement to help MTN and other networks, to stop these criminals,” she stated.

A spokesperson from Telkom additionally indicated that batteries are unable to recharge throughout frequent load-shedding, including that it’s extra pronounced at websites with lead-acid batteries which take longer to cost.

Load-shedding additionally impacts the cooling system at Telkom’s community towers.

“Load-shedding compromises our cooling system, which results in higher ambient temperatures inside our equipment cabinet, high temperatures compromise the life of batteries,” the spokesperson stated.

A Vodacom spokesperson additionally indicated that cellular networks endure throughout load-shedding.

“When electricity is cut to a cellphone tower, it will remain fully functional for as long as the batteries last or the backup generator keeps running. ”

“Once the backup power is depleted, the tower stops working and, depending on the configuration of nearby towers, may cause a coverage outage or for customers to experience intermittent service in a particular area.”

The spokesperson reiterated the impact that frequent load-shedding periods can have on backup batteries.

“A notable complication with more frequent load-shedding is that batteries don’t fully recharge before the next outage,” the spokesperson stated.

In addition to this, the repeated activation and depletion of backup batteries shortens their life span.

“Batteries are particularly negatively impacted by load-shedding. Batteries have a limited number of charge / deplete cycles, which means the more often they are called on to work, the shorter their lifespan,” the spokesperson stated.

“With infrequent outages, a battery can last for five years, but with frequent outages due to load-shedding, this will reduce to one or two years.”

“We would like to reassure customers that we are doing everything we can to help mitigate the effects of widespread load-shedding, such as deploying generators at various sites around the country,” they added.

Now learn: South Africa’s mobile networks should reapply for non permanent spectrum

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