MTN Fixed-LTE customers have complained to MyBroadband about having to reset their routers due to “tower hopping” during power outages.
Multiple customers told MyBroadband their Internet speeds dropped to a snail’s pace whenever they were hit with load-shedding.
One customer said the problem also occurred intermittently due to bad weather.
He said there were four MTN towers close to his location, between which his router’s connection tended to move.
“When connecting to a different tower after already being connected to a first, traffic ends up suffering degraded performance,” he stated.
His first stop was to contact his ISP – Afrihost – about the issue.
Support staff at Afrihost told him the problem was being caused by his SIM card being “blocked” by MTN whenever the tower that his fixed-LTE connection was locked to goes down and the connection “hops” to another tower.
Tower-locking and load-shedding
In order to provide optimal speeds to customers on its fixed-LTE product, MTN manages the capacity on the towers it uses for the service.
To ensure that base stations aren’t overloaded with demand, subscribers who sign up for its fixed-LTE product are allocated to certain towers close to them.
Their SIM is then locked onto these towers and cannot be used on other MTN towers. If the router within which the SIM is placed is moved to another location, it will attempt to connect to another tower, resulting in the service not working.
During load-shedding, the tower which a customer’s SIM is locked to goes down due to a lack of power – which then results in a router automatically searching for the next-best tower to connect to, said the complainant.
The complainant then tried to perform a reboot of the router to initiate a new session. This did not help, and resulted in an “Invalid profile” or “Unable to connect” error, or no 4G connectivity.
The user was able to restore the connection to better speeds with a factory reset of the router’s settings, however.
He said he could not explain why this was happening, but speculated there was a “router ID or system flag” that was generated upon router reset.
“I end up resetting my routers during load-shedding so I can remain connected to the backup tower at good speeds,” he explained.
He then has to reset the router again when load-shedding is over, in order to reconnect to the preferred tower.
The customer told MyBroadband he had also sent the routers to Afrihost, who confirmed they were working as intended.
MyBroadband reached out to MTN for comment on these complaints, and the operator said that none of the customer who came forward had been blocked on its side.
It added that MTN does not block customers due to load-shedding and its fixed-LTE packages included a fallback solution in the event of load-shedding.
“It is important to note that the fixed-LTE SIM does connect to an alternative tower(s) within a defined footprint should the serving tower be offline – the switching is seamless,” said MTN Executive of Corporate Affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan.
“Service will not be impacted for as long as alternative back-up power options deployed by MTN are available for the sites within the range. Fixed-LTE customers in that area will be impacted in the same way as mobile customers.”
O’Sullivan added that problems could occur in the event that the SIM was installed in a non-compliant device.
This was not the case for this particular customer, who said he was using an approved Huawei B618 router.
Afrihost did not respond to requests for comment.