Not quite panic signals, but telecoms theft raises alarm

Business

Not quite panic signals, but telecoms theft raises alarm

Battery and cable theft at cellphone tower sites costs operators millions and is hurting investment prospects

Mudiwa Gavaza

SA-based telecoms companies are grappling with increasing infrastructure vandalism – they say battery and cable theft at their cellphone tower sites is costing them hundreds of millions in capital expenditure each year.

Vodacom (https://www.sharenet.co.za/v3/quickshare.php?scode=VOD), MTN (https://www.sharenet.co.za/v3/quickshare.php?scode=MTN) and Cell C (https://www.sharenet.co.za/v3/quickshare.php?scode=BLU), which operate most of SA’s mobile networking infrastructure, have lost more than R300m in the past year because of vandalism and theft.  

Stolen goods find their way to SA’s regional neighbours who are struggling to create and maintain stable sources of power. Criminals seeking to “export” their product are often caught at SA’s borders in cars and buses. Stolen batteries, likely sold at a discount, may be a more attractive bet for self-power-generation in places where diesel generators and solar are out of reach, financially, for many...

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