As the country continues to suffer from increased load shedding, the deliberate power outages are having a significant negative impact on South Africa’s mobile network operators.
Although the industry has proactively invested trillions of rands in back-up power solutions for network resiliency and continuity, customers are increasingly frustrated when they experience a decline in network performance with increased load shedding.
This is largely inevitable as power generation capacity is reduced to Tier 4 and beyond, the grid operator said.
Billions for power backups
Shameel Joosub, in his capacity as Chair of the recently formed Association of Communications & Technology (ACT), said the power crisis in South Africa is putting further pressure on an already struggling economy.
“In an electricity-driven market, grid operators’ massive spending on batteries, generators and diesel would be channeled into programs that offer customers significantly better long-term value than just keeping their grids running.”
“For example, these funds would have been better spent tackling the digital divide by accelerating rural coverage across the country and helping customers struggling to make ends meet due to rising inflationary pressures,” he said.
Joosub, who is also Vodacom Group’s chief executive officer, said when the power goes out, many people turn to their devices to study, work or be entertained.
“If they don’t get the level of service they’re used to without load shedding, customers turn to call centers and social media in frustration.”
To mitigate the impact of load shedding on customers, the grids deploy 24-hour engineering teams dedicated to monitoring and restoring power to sites and managing logistics to secure mobile generators on site.
Additionally, grid operators have implemented stricter security and surveillance measures to protect sites from both battery and generator theft and vandalism, which exacerbates downtime problems.
Joosub added that connectivity is vital to sustainable technology and development as a nation.
“We must work together as the public and private sectors to find solutions to South Africa’s national electricity crisis. We also appreciate the progress made on the Wheeling Framework, which aims to encourage independent power generation to use existing distribution or transmission grids.”
Nomvuyiso Batyi, CEO of ACT, the impact of load shedding is far-reaching and will ultimately hamper any progress in inclusive digital transformation in the country and widen the existing digital divide.
“ACT has worked with relevant stakeholders including the national government through the National Department of Mineral Resource and Energy (DMRE), the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU), regulators such as NERSA and Eskom to ensure South Africa finds sustainable countermeasures Effects of the load shedding that everyone is experiencing,” he said.
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