Vodacom CEO, Shameel Joosub, highlighted the significant disruption that load shedding has caused for the telecommunications (telco) industry, which operates over 20,000 sites across South Africa. Despite the disruption, load shedding has led to an increase in network usage as customers rely on telecommunications during outages.
Telecom Industry Struggles With Soaring Expenses Due to Eskom-Induced Load Shedding
The telco industry has had to invest substantially in backup power solutions. Joosub estimated that the industry has collectively invested over R10 billion, with Vodacom alone investing R4 billion in the past four years. This investment includes batteries and fuel to ensure uninterrupted service during load shedding. However, rising fuel costs have posed challenges for the industry.
Battery Lifespan and Theft
The industry also grapples with the relatively short lifespan of cellphone tower batteries, typically lasting three years, as well as battery theft. These issues impact profit margins and operational stability. Despite these challenges, telcos prioritize keeping customers connected.
Better Planning Needed
Joosub emphasized the need for improved planning, transparency, and communication regarding load shedding schedules from the government and Eskom. Having access to load shedding schedules, even if not entirely accurate, would help telcos plan better by indicating where additional batteries and generators are needed.
Collaboration for Solutions
To address these challenges, Joosub stressed the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors. These efforts are vital for alleviating the impact of load shedding on GDP growth in the country.
Ongoing Load Shedding
Alwie Lester, Special Advisor to the Premier on Energy, indicated that while there was a brief reprieve from load shedding, the system remains volatile. He anticipated load shedding stages ranging from 2 to 4 for the upcoming week. Lester urged preparation for continued load shedding, even at Stage 2, emphasizing the need for resilience.