Vodacom says it spends approximately R100 million each year fighting battery theft at its base stations but added that incidents of theft and vandalism at its sites have stabilised over the past year.
On the other hand, MTN told MyBroadband that its efforts to prevent such incidents had resulted in a slight decrease in battery theft over the past few months.
A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that it didn’t see any significant increase in battery theft during the 2022/23 financial year, and this trend has continued in the current financial year.
It said this is thanks to its investment in security at its base stations. The mobile operator uses several methods to protect its infrastructure, including:
- The hardening of sites, where base stations become a “security vault” to protect infrastructure;
- Cementing batteries in vaults and housing them in concrete cubes;
- The use of high-tech security technologies to detect and deter criminals; and,
- Through community and South African Police Service engagement.
“Critically, our partnership with private security companies and law enforcement agencies has been a major contributor in preventing break-ins and led to successful arrests of criminals,” the spokesperson added.
The mobile operator said it is investing in artificial intelligence systems to support its existing security layers, which helps with “early detection” and the “accelerated arrest of criminal syndicates”.
“This has also helped in containing the costs of the security measures while providing deeper insights on the trends and predictions of criminal acts,” the spokesperson added.
“Vodacom spends circa R100 million to fight vandalism and battery theft each year.”
Jacqui O’Sullivan, chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer at MTN SA, told MyBroadband that the operator has seen a slight reduction in theft incidents.
“Over the past years, MTN has put additional security measures and partnered with various stakeholders to protect its network infrastructure, such as local policing forums, law enforcement authorities, private security companies and communities at large,” said O’Sullivan.
“We will continue to invest more in our network infrastructure as we finalise our network resilience programme across the regions.”
MyBroadband also asked Telkom for comment, but it didn’t answer our questions by the time of publication.
The partially state-owned network operator previously told MyBroadband that it uses community engagement to protect its infrastructure.
“Access to the Internet and the mobile telephony are essential services, even more so during the coronavirus pandemic, and the destruction of the towers destroys these services as well,” it added.
“The result of a poor Internet connection, and often no calls, can negatively affect an event of a life and death situation.”