We’ve all become quite familiar with the scourge of load shedding. Over the last week, South Africa entered the Darker*Ages, also known as Stage 6 load shedding. With the power being off for most of our waking hours, it’s putting a heavy strain on everyone. MTN, on the other hand, is working on a plan to make the most of the situation.
Load shedding 1, MTN 0
The plan, for MTN, requires as many generators and battery packs as possible. The company says that it’s getting harder and harder to keep its tower battery charged up. Because of this, MTN wants to reach out to small businesses to find as many generators as it possibly can. Charles Molapisi, MTN SA CEO, says the company needs to explore unorthodox and “innovative” avenues to keep the users connected.
“There is no doubt the country is facing a power crisis but at MTN, we want to turn this crisis into an opportunity for small businesses by ‘crowd sourcing’ generators to further support our network,” Molapisi said.
It’s clear that the mobile service provider is desperate to keep its towers online. This, in turn, keeps its customers online. Without the ability to charge tower backup batteries properly, MTN is losing valuable hours and potentially valuable customers. MTN has extended an invitation to all small businesses around the country who has generators to spare.
“Whether the business has two or 20 generators, MTN is looking to partner,” MTN said.
MTN’s Michele Gamberini said the company has been hard at work upgrading the battery packs they already have. Over 80% of all sites have received the upgrade, with the rest planned as soon as possible. Despite this, it still seems that load shedding has won this round.
“Battery back-up systems generally take 12-18 hours to recharge, while batteries have a capacity of about 6-12 hours, depending on the site category. Consistent outages therefore have a direct impact on the performance of the batteries, while consistent theft of the batteries themselves means replacements need to be installed,” Gamberini said.
More to it
At this point, MTN has deployed just over 2,000 generators across the country to counter Stage 6 load shedding. Over 400,000 litres of fuel are being used to keep them running each month.
A few more ideas are being discussed to help operations flow smoothly during Stage 4 and above sheds. These include:
- Withdrawing maintenance teams to focus on restoring power rather than scheduled maintenance.
- ‘War Rooms’ – a set of workers situated in each region to focus on restoring major transmission infrastructure and base stations when faced with severe load shedding.
- Constant fuel deliveries to make sure all critical MTN data centres remain functional.
“To mitigate the risks, we have embarked on several emergency initiatives to ensure higher network resilience, despite the obstacles. We want to assure our customers that we are doing all we can to maintain connectivity during this challenging time.” Gamberini said.
MTN seems committed to the cause of internet access during the dark times. For the network provider, it makes sense. Keeping as much going as possible will keep customers happy. Yes, it’s costing them but a backup plan for situations like this is essential. After all, we can be sure that load shedding isn’t going away anytime soon. Thanks for that, Eskom.