MTN has said there’s been an alarming rise in incidents of battery theft which has been adversely affecting their operations. In the past two weeks alone, MTN said they have lost 199 batteries in the last two weeks and in April the company lost 733 batteries.
Though the problem is countrywide, the most affected areas are currently Soweto, Tembisa, Vereeniging and Parktown.
Battery theft and related vandalism is costing MTN hundreds of millions of rand and the impact on the entire industry is exorbitant.
There is a high cost to customers and network providers each time a battery is stolen, keeping in mind that as many as four to 16 batteries need to be replaced at each site.
To replace batteries at 100 sites, for instance, would cost well over R10-million and then several more millions would be required to cover the costs of fixing the damage done to the cellphone towers.
MTN South Africa GM for network operations Ernest Paul
Although MTN has tightened their security, attempts at stealing batteries have only gotten more violent with guards now being assaulted and shot at, according to TechCentral.
Well, a certain country north of South Africa is facing a crippling energy crisis and this has ramped up demand for batteries and solar equipment. A friend of mine who works for a company that sales solar equipment recently told me that their company has had to be very careful when importing batteries from South Africa because batteries stolen from base stations are making their way into Zim at an alarming rate. At the time I had no way of confirming any of this but the recent claims by MTN seem to tie in with that narrative.
It is important to realise they may be buying stolen goods if the asking price is way below the market price of about R28 000/battery.
If a battery has any markings or may look used and doesn’t physically come out of a sealed box, then it could be stolen. Criminals often also look to sell these stolen batteries on social media platforms like Facebook. Batteries are increasingly sought on black markets especially in neighbouring countries
This calls for some serious diligence when buying batteries because you might be buying a battery belonging to MTN or in more plain terms, a stolen battery.
According to TechCentral, the major battery brand being used by network operators in South Africa is Leoch lithium. Apparently, this brand is not available to the public and if you find one of these being sold in second-hand condition or as refurbished you may want to investigate further before buying.–tehzim