MTN hits back at battery thieves in South Africa

MTN has provided insight into its ongoing battle with battery thieves and criminal syndicates in South Africa.

The mobile operator has seen great success in combatting battery theft at mobile base stations this year – a problem which is rampant in the country and affects all mobile operators with a physical network.

“Highlights during the year was the launch of MTN’s 5G network in June and the implementation of a new 360 Plan Security Model, which led to a significant 49% reduction in battery-related theft and vandalism incidents from the previous year,” MTN said.

“The battle against battery and cable theft has been a challenging one for many years, but MTN has continued to fight hard against thieves and syndicates.”

The mobile operator said the implementation of this plan allowed MTN to strike back against these criminals, with the number of recorded incidents falling from 2,195 last year to 1,115 this year.

“This reduction of incidents resulted in a 45% reduction in actual batteries losses over the year, from 13,066 to 7,150 from 2019 to 2020 respectively,” said MTN Network Operations General manager Ernest Paul.

“We’re pleased to have made significant headway in 2020 and continue to put measures in place to safeguard our network and infrastructure to ensure customers continue to enjoy uninterrupted network connectivity at all times.”

“Connectivity has permeated every aspect of our lives and unplanned network outages are not only disruptive but also undermine ongoing initiatives to attract investment into SA and create much-needed employment opportunities,” Paul said.

Tackling criminals head-on

MTN said its new security strategy is yielding impressive results in terms of preventing batteries from being stolen and improving the recovery rate of batteries.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 153 stolen battery incidents were recorded, compared with 292 in the prior quarter and 472 in the first quarter of the year.

When compared to 2019, the drop is even more impressive – 432 battery incidents were recorded in the first quarter of 2019, with as many as 630 battery theft incidents in the first quarter of 2019.

Additionally, a total of 191 batteries were recovered in November 2020, five vehicles were impounded, and 19 suspects were arrested and charged.

In the year to date, 240 arrests were made and a total of 857 lead-acid batteries were recovered together with 401 lithium batteries.

Added to this is the recovery of 80 network copper cables.

“Our 360 Plan Security Model stands out as a key turning point. It is an industry-first in the design of security services, modelled around a managed services approach, compared to the traditional resource-based models,” Paul said.

“It has further been strengthened by the Managed Service Physical Security approach by the National Operation Centre, which is the heartbeat of the entire 360 Plan.”

“Added to this is tactical and armed response intervention, intelligence and investigations, special operations, and airwing support to mention a few,” he said.

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MTN hits back at battery thieves in South Africa