MTN is forced to shut down 53 base stations in South Africa; Pretoria, Johannesburg, due to incessant theft and vandalism of its towers. About 90 cellphone towers across the country are currently on hold as MTN awaits replacement batteries and maintenance fixes.
MTN General manager for network operations Ernest Paul said in a statement that damage incurred far outweighs maintenance cost “In the first half of the year, the cost to the industry has reached an unsustainable tipping point,”
And if continued “hundreds of towers around the country are at risk of being permanently shut down, putting strain on the network and potentially diminishing the quality of the service provided to customers”. Paul added.
However, in May, MTN South Africa says, with the involvement of the police, security personal and ordinary South Africans, it recovered around 65 cell tower backup batteries worth an estimated R1.9-million in some parts of the country.
It has also recovered batteries to the value of almost R1-million in the past week in Pretoria.
“While MTN is making strides in combating battery theft by implementing full detection and monitoring on all base transceiver station sites, criminal syndicates are becoming more brazen and a broader initiative by the community is needed to prevent ongoing theft.”
The telcos believes “This is a national problem and more communities and people need to realise they may experience no service at some point if this continues, as loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5 000 to 20 000 people at any given time.”
MTN South Africa is not alone in this mishaps, Vodacom has also been victimized with extreme vandalism and theft costing it as much as R140-million/year.