MTN wants to buy and share backup generators with South African small businesses — here are the specs

MTN is inviting any small business in South Africa with generators to become a potential supplier for the company.

“Whether the business has two or twenty generators, MTN is looking to partner,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

This comes after state-owned power utility Eskom announced stage 6 rotational power cuts during evening peaks on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Eskom announced that load-shedding would continue until at least 05:00 Friday morning, albeit reduced to stage 4 during Thursday’s evening peak.

Eskom blamed the need to load-shed at stage 4 and stage 6 on an illegal strike that erupted after it declared deadlock in wage negotiations with labour unions.

Some striking workers allegedly slashed managers’ tyres and petrol-bombed their houses.

Eskom has reportedly offered workers a 7% pay increase to end the wage dispute.

Responding to the escalated levels of load-shedding, MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi said they wanted to turn the crisis into an opportunity for small businesses by “crowdsourcing” generators.

Suppliers would be subject to streamlined governance and procurement protocols, and the minimum specification for generators include:

  • 40kVA, petrol or diesel
  • 100 litres minimum capacity tank
  • Maximum noise level: 65dB
  • Trailing cable: 10m
  • DIN 16 male plug

Molapisi said MTN is aggressively rolling out batteries, generators, and alternate power supplies to ensure the network remains online through load-shedding.

MTN has clarified that it is not necessarily looking to buy backup generators, but is also searching for other commercial partnerships where it shares generator infrastructure with small businesses.

40kVA generator — this model doesn’t fully meet MTN’s requirements as it only has an 80-litre fuel tank

MTN SA chief technology and information officer Michele Gamberini echoed comments from Telkom and Vodacom that increased load-shedding is a challenge for battery recharging.

“Despite us having placed thousands of batteries at our sites across the country, the efficacy of those batteries greatly reduces once we pass stage 4 load shedding,” Gamberini said.

He said MTN upgraded its battery backups on over 80% of the sites this year and is deploying additional batteries.

However, the network operator still faces the challenge of the current outage schedule not allowing enough time for batteries to charge.

“Battery backup systems generally take 12–18 hours to recharge, while batteries have a capacity of about 6–12 hours, depending on the site category,” Gamberini said.

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

In addition to its battery rollout, MTN has deployed over 2,000 generators to counter the impact of stage 4 and higher load shedding.

Gamberini said these generators consume more than 400,000 litres of fuel per month.


Now read: Stage 6 load-shedding bad news for South Africa’s cellular networks

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MTN wants to buy and share backup generators with South African small businesses — here are the specs