South African operators hit by escalating petty crime

South African operators hit by escalating petty crime

South Africa’s MTN and Vodacom are losing millions each year as a result of theft and vandalism of telecoms equipment perpetrated by criminal gangs.

Vodacom told TechCentral that it loses around 2000 batteries from base stations each month, and that it has recently adopted a new model of battery in a bid to curb this number. However, the new batteries are in fact more expensive to deploy. The operator estimated its annual loss attributable to petty crime at ZAR140 million ($9.2 million).

Speaking separately to the same outlet, MTN warned of “severe damage and vandalism”, in South Africa which has already resulted in it permanently retiring 53 base stations. With 90 more base stations requiring repairs, the operator added that hundreds of towers could be shuttered as well.

MTN’s general manager Ernest Paul said that the operator had reported 125 battery thefts in just one week in July. He noted: “Battery theft and related vandalism is costing MTN hundreds of millions of rand, and the impact on the entire industry is exorbitant. Recent data shows MTN had 733 batteries stolen from its sites across the country in April”.

“If left unchecked, entire communities, individual customers and small businesses alike, in affected areas, will struggle to access their mobile services as the theft comes with extensive damage to the entire network infrastructure.”

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