Icasa sets up task team to help ICT sector fight load-shedding

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has established a Council Committee tasked with determining the impact of load-shedding on electronic communications, broadcasting, and postal services.

This follows the termination of South Africa’s short-lived National State of Disaster over electricity on 5 April 2023.

The committee will assess the effects of Eskom load-shedding on the ICT sector.

It will work closely with stakeholders in the industry to identify possible regulatory interventions that fall within Icasa’s purview.

Icasa believes collaborating with industry stakeholders will help it reduce the impact of load-shedding on the ICT sector, the economy, and the country.

“Through the establishment of this Committee, the Authority looks forward to working with Government, the sector and industry stakeholders to find practical solutions to mitigate the impact of load-shedding on the ICT sector,” said Icasa acting chairperson Yolisa Kedama.

Icasa said it still needs to finalize its internal consideration of the scope of the regulatory process in response to the electricity crisis and will publish a further notice once done.

Eskom load-shedding has a significant impact on South Africa’s network operators.

In mid-May, Vodacom and MTN approached government for a diesel rebate and permission to collaborate on sharing power sources and security at their towers.

They expressed their “deep concern” about the worsening status of load-shedding and that higher stages in winter would make it increasingly difficult for mobile network operators to keep people and businesses connected.

This is despite their massive investments in backup power at their towers.

In its first-quarter financial results for 2023, MTN reported 6.9% lower earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization than the year before.

“The extent of power outages in the country remained elevated with 90 days of load-shedding during the quarter, compared to 14 in Q1 2022,” the mobile operator said.

“This heavily disrupted network availability, on a YoY basis, which affected MTN SA’s growth trajectory; especially in its voice segment.”

In March 2023, MTN revealed that Eskom’s load-shedding cost its South African business R695 million in one year, adding that it continued implementing a “comprehensive network resilience plan” to mitigate the impact of rotational power cuts.

“Our investment in this regard, which included dealing with vandalism and additional security on sites, put additional pressure on operating costs,” it stated.

In September 2022, Vodacom warned of potential network blackouts resulting from Eskom load-shedding.

Vodacom, like MTN, uses battery backups at its towers, which are constantly at risk of being stolen, and the mobile operator has warned that some regions may be at risk of total blackouts.

“Vodacom’s towers are equipped with backup batteries, however, these have limited power and will eventually fail,” a Vodacom spokesperson said.

“Stage 6 does mean more frequent and protracted power outages, which impacts the ability of our batteries to recharge fully.”

Vodacom added that its towers remain fully operational while the batteries can supply power, but extensive power cuts lead to base stations going offline.

Now read: Eskom plans to build 3,000MW gas power station without its own money

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Icasa sets up task team to help ICT sector fight load-shedding