“Telkom didn’t pay me again, so I turned off their cellphone tower”

A MyBroadband reader has switched off the Telkom cellphone tower on his property after the mobile network failed to pay him for the electricity to run the infrastructure.

The property in question is a commercial building in Glenhazel, Johannesburg.

Telkom signed a 10-year lease with the owner to erect a cellphone base station on the building, providing mobile coverage to Telkom customers in the surrounding area.

According to the owner, the agreement stated that Telkom would pay a monthly rental amount for its cellphone tower, as well as reimburse the owner for the electricity required to run the hardware.

However, Telkom has reportedly not paid the correct amounts for the electricity required to run the cellphone tower since the beginning of the COVID-19 national lockdown, the owner told MyBroadband.

This is not the first time this has occurred. The same property owner was previously compelled to switch off the Telkom tower last year after Telkom reportedly failed to pay him for either the property rental or the electricity.

Telkom subsequently began paying him again, although this only lasted for a few months before he began to experience the same issue as before.

Switching off the power

The property owner said he switched off the tower as a last resort, as he had made many attempts to contact Telkom regarding the problem with its electricity payments.

He sent multiple emails to Telkom and attempted to contact representatives about his lease agreement and Telkom’s purported failure to cover his electricity cost as stipulated.

There was no reply from Telkom, however, and no resolution was reached.

The company did state that it would send somebody to inspect the electricity meter and confirm the correct monthly electricity amount to compensate the owner, but this was never realised.

The cellphone tower on the property was, therefore, turned off by the owner on the morning of 5 October 2020, which immediately caused reduced LTE connectivity for Telkom customers in the area.

At the time of writing, the Telkom tower is still turned off, as the mobile network has not paid the property owner the outstanding amount for the arrangement.

The property owner also has a Cell C tower on his property, for which he said he is always compensated on time according to the terms of that lease agreement, and for which he is also compensated for the correct electricity consumption.

Third-party power agreements

Instances of third-party power agreements such as the type described above can cause problems, as experienced by Vumacam last year.

In that case, City Power accused Vumacam of illegal electricity connections, as it was entering into agreements with residents of the areas where its poles were erected to power its hardware.

Regulations may differ for the type of tower rental agreement described above, however, where a base station is located on a commercial property and the electricity compensation is outlined in the lease agreement.

Cell C previously told MyBroadband that the tower it has placed on this person’s property is in compliance with all relevant legislation, as is each of its other towers.

“Cell C negotiates lease agreements with any property owner willing to host a tower,” the operator told MyBroadband.

“There are various ways that Cell C addresses power to a site hosted by a business; including the installation of a submeter or our own City Power connection.”

“In some cases where we are unable to have our own power connection installed, Cell C ensures compliance with City Power processes to connect to the landlord’s power directly,” the operator said.

No comment from Telkom

Telkom did not respond to a request for comment sent by MyBroadband.

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“Telkom didn’t pay me again, so I turned off their cellphone tower”