MTN’s big investment to fight load-shedding

MTN South Africa has seen significant improvements in performance and customer experience, where it has rolled out network resilience upgrades.

“Overall network availability in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo has improved by 27.18% since the start of the resilience programme compared to last year,” an MTN spokesperson told MyBroadband.

“In MTN’s Central Region, which includes the Free State, Northern Cape, and parts of North West, network sites with resilience are now achieving above 98% network availability daily.”

MTN said its Central Region performance improved from 92% network availability after it addressed more than 1,400 sites through its network resilience programme.

“This has led to improved throughput and availability, reduced drop call rates and increased data volumes,” it said.

MTN’s 2024 resilience plan was to ensure all its cellular sites were equipped with power backup in the form of batteries or hybrid generators on hub sites.

This minimises network unavailability during load shedding, load reduction, and extended power failures.

MTN said this resilience project was completed in the first quarter of 2024.

In Mpumalanga, sites with resilience are achieving 98.33% network availability daily — which MTN said is a record high in the region.

“As an example, the Lowveld is now achieving 99.37% availability,” MTN said.

Among its 2023 highlights, MTN said the southern Free State town Oppermansgronde received 4G coverage for the first time, while all towns saw improved network availability.

For example, network availability in Mafikeng in the North West improved from 75% to 98% during the various bouts of load-shedding, the company said.

MTN SA declined to say how much it has invested to combat load-shedding, only reiterating figures from its annual report that its 2023 capital expenditure was R10.1 billion.

This included all its spending on building, enhancing and protecting its network.

However, MTN Group CEO Ralph Mupita previously told journalists that the company spent R2.5 billion in South Africa on network resilience during 2023.

Ralph Mupita, MTN Group CEO

In September 2022, MTN said it burned 450,000 litres of fuel per month during stage 5 and stage 6 load-shedding when batteries didn’t get enough time to recharge between power cuts.

MTN has also had to invest significantly in security at its towers to protect the batteries it installs there.

In 2023, the company said it experienced thousands of incidents of theft and vandalism at its base stations in the space of a year.

Some towers were being hit up to 15 times per year.

Earlier that same year, South Africa’s mobile operators declined to reveal which brands of batteries they were using at their towers because they were being targeted by criminal syndicates.

Most recently, MTN South Africa revealed that its initiative to use backup power from its towers to power traffic lights in Soweto was delayed due to theft and vandalism.

However, it was upbeat that this was a solvable problem and would not scupper the project.

“The initiative will see MTN supplying backup power to traffic lights close to its base stations to help alleviate congestion during load-shedding,” the company said.

“MTN is in the process of expanding this initiative to other areas across the country,” it added.

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MTN’s big investment to fight load-shedding