Vodacom Group is investing a further R500 million (US$31.6 million) on batteries to power its infrastructure in the face of continued power outages across South Africa.
The power cuts are the result of power firm Eskom’s increasingly antiquated legacy infrastructure. The utility company commenced a load-shedding programme in the second half of 2021 to address the issue, and this has affected businesses nationwide. Mobile providers have seen their operational costs soar as they struggle to keep base stations live and secure while maintaining customer experience.
IT Web quoted Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub as saying: “The frequency of it [load-shedding] is a big issue. The network is supposed to run on power and then you have batteries to back up the site. If we increase the levels of load-shedding, then effectively the batteries do not have enough time to recharge, which leads to network outages.”
“Last year, we spent over a billion rand just on upgrading batteries and this year we are spending again just to make sure we can cope. This year, we will probably be investing R500 million or so again; it’s a constant investment − if the situation gets worse, we have to up the level of investment.”
To cope with the power outages, Vodacom has been pursuing its strategy of deploying solar-powered sites, with 1088 now active across its footprint. Joosub noted that the operator plans to invest more than R10.5 billion into its network during the current fiscal year – adding to the R47 billion invested across the past five years.