South African mobile phone operators – Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom Mobile – are losing millions from the battery theft in some of their base stations across the country. Investing in this batteries and base stations that get vandalised by criminals is becoming a costly exercise for the mobile phone operators. By Gugu Lourie
But operators seem to have discovered a solution.
South African technology firm Poynting seems to have find a better solution for the operators to deal with this headache costing millions.
Poynting is described as a manufacturer and supplier of antenna solutions to the telecommunications, defence and security markets.
Called the MagiCube, this patented concrete enclosure is being delivered to over 50 ‘high-risk’ base stations in South Africa, was designed by Poynting Antennas, part of the Poynting Group, the global supplier of antennas and related technology based in Gauteng.
Poynting claims that MagiCube is compact enough to be retrofitted to existing base stations, with its construction allowing it to be fitted outside of the main container. It adds that by fitting the MagiCube outside the container, it discourages vandals and thieves from breaking into the equipment container and damaging the very expensive radio equipment fitted inside.
The tech firm further claims that the MagiCube is designed to offer a more stable thermal characteristics throughout hot days and cold nights and it is treated with a special coating to reflect heat.
Andries Delport, Chief Technical Officer of Vodacom, says theft and vandalism are fast becoming a critical business issue especially as it affects the company’s subscribers, who may experience a drop in service levels or a complete loss of connectivity when a base station is damaged.
“The MagiCube offers a viable and cost effective solution. We look forward to retrofitting the cubes to many of our vulnerable base stations,” he says.
Poynting estimates that theft and vandalism on mobile operators base stations cost them more than R150 million per year.
“Battery theft has overtaken copper theft in terms of intensity and disruption of telecommunication service. Battery theft affects more people due to the much higher numbers of cell phone users and applications,” says Andre Fourie, executive chairman and Product Specialist at Poynting.
“Criminal elements raid and vandalise vulnerable base stations and steal these high-tech batteries for resale or to harvest lead, causing losses of up to R120 000 per base station. These losses do not account for the related damage to high value cellular equipment fitted around the batteries, the loss of service to customers in the area or the cost of repairs.”
Fourie explains that current solutions, including brick and mortar enclosures or thick steel battery safes have proven ineffective, while the posting of 24/7 security or video monitoring has helped, but are not scalable to the more than 30,000 base stations across the country.