Theft of cell tower batteries soar around the country

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    A cell tower in Cornubia, north of Durban was recently targeted in a theft that MTN says incurs a high cost to customers.

    COMMUNITY support will help to eradicate cell tower battery theft and vandalism, says MTN Johannesburg, after 733 batteries were stolen across the country during April. While the worst hit areas are currently Soweto, Tembisa, Vereeniging and Parktown, vandalism was recently spotted in Cornubia, north of Durban.

    Ernest Paul, MTN’s general manager of network operations said the service provider recorded 125 incidents of battery theft countrywide last week from 74 the week before.

    “Battery theft and related vandalism is costing MTN hundreds of millions of Rands and the impact on the entire industry is exorbitant,” he added.

    The theft incurs a high cost to customers and network providers each time a battery is stolen as 4-16 batteries need to be replaced at each site. To replace batteries at 100 sites, for instance, would cost well over R10m.

    “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,” said Paul.

    Potential buyers should be wary of Leoch lithium batteries which are generally for the exclusive use of the telecommunications sector and are not sold to the commercial solar industry.

    MTN will provide monetary reward mechanisms for information which helps bring the criminals to book. To report cellphone tower battery thefts, call the MTNza Fraud Line on 083 123 7867 or email anonymous@tipoffs.com.