Criminals are wrecking mobile networks in South Africa, costing operators millions each month and leaving thousands of people without essential telecoms services.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said cellphone base stations are increasingly being targeted in South Africa.
Criminals are after anything which can be sold, including diesel, batteries, copper, and telecoms equipment.
These criminals rip base stations apart to get what they want, which means it takes a long time to repair the damage.
Theft and vandalism
Speaking at the 2019 MyBroadband Mobile Network Conference, MTN’s general manager of engineering Zoltan Miklos said criminals struck more during load-shedding than before.
Miklos said the number of incidents of theft and vandalism of its network increased from 277 in November 2018 to 548 in March 2019.
Criminals typically steal batteries, power cables, and air conditioners from these sites and then sell the equipment.
He said these criminals are so brazen that they often advertise the stolen network equipment on social media.
An example of a mobile network battery which was advertised online is shown below.
Good news is that the mobile networks are fighting back with the help of the SA police service and specialised crime fighting units.
This month, two sting operations have resulted in the arrest of criminal gangs which stole mobile network equipment.
The photos below show the arrest of the criminals along with some of the stolen batteries.