MTN has announced that it has been forced to shut down a number of its cellphone towers due to an increase in vandalism and battery theft.
The theft of back-up batteries and vandalism of infrastructure leads to increased strain on the network by forcing mobile operators to deactivate heavily-affected base stations, MTN said.
This results in diminished coverage in certain parts of the country.
MTN said that other service interruptions caused by these criminal activities must be considered as well, including outages caused by lost battery replacement, damaged site repair, and tower maintenance.
“Although great strides have been made in the prevention and recovery of stolen batteries, it is still a concern,” said MTN Network Operations general manager Ernest Paul.
“Particularly now, as we know that crime spikes in December, which means that more batteries may be stolen – and more consumers may be left unconnected.”
MTN said that the theft of back-up batteries at network towers not only disrupts day-to-day communications, but it also poses real safety and security risks.
For example, home security systems use this infrastructure to send a distress signal to control rooms for security response. The same applies to vehicle tracking devices and personal safety and GPS location apps.
“The festive season is a time for connecting with friends and family,” Paul said.
“It is also a time when South Africans need to be able to call emergency services should they find themselves in dangerous situations, whether on holiday, at home, or on the roads. Without connection to a cellphone network this is impossible.”
“Battery theft is a crime that compromises the safety and welfare of every South African, but it is not a crime that we can fight alone,” he added.
“We therefore appeal to all South Africans to ‘help us help you’ by reporting any theft, vandalism or suspicious activity that you see, hear of or come across.”