Why Is Vodacom Spending R1 Billion On Lithium-ion Batteries?

“We installed over 38 000 new lithium-ion batteries and improved security measures at more than 10 025 sites in the network.."

In South Africa, Vodacom has to maintain and improve its extensive network to differentiate itself, remain competitive and ensure positive consumer sentiment. Furthermore, the Vodafone-owned telco has to ensure that the quality of its service is in line with government regulations.

The South African Government has also recently introduced a carbon tax that will further increase the operating costs of running Vodacom’s network sites.

Vodacom also felt the pressure of the increased demand for digital products during COVID-19.

In South Africa, Vodacom says this was further exacerbated by load shedding, which adversely affects its electricity supply and thereby increased dependency on backup diesel generators and batteries.

Sporadic vandalism and battery theft at network sites also impede business continuity, network quality and overall customer experience, the company said.

“The changing trend to work from home placed additional demand on our network. This challenge has been exacerbated by Eskom’s load shedding and sporadic battery theft and vandalism at our network sites,” Vodacom’s 2021 annual report states.

“We are driving investment to mitigate this risk to ensure connectivity for our corporate clients. For example, we spent R1 billion on lithium-ion batteries, which have a longer useful life than lead-acid batteries and are less harmful to the environment.

“We installed over 38 000 new lithium-ion batteries and improved security measures at more than 10 025 sites in the network. More broadly, Vodacom has a comprehensive technology resilience programme in place to ensure that critical infrastructure and services are resilient through design.”

The annual report also states that the company mitigated some of the negative impacts on its consumer and enterprise customers by accelerating the installation of new backup batteries and standby power solutions and implementing high-security shelters to reduce battery theft and damage.

“The network availability improvement plan accelerated battery deployment to our base stations, and we reached 10 025 sites, as well as 818 first-priority enterprise business unit sites,” said Vodacom.

How much electricity does Vodacom consume?

In the 2021 financial year, Vodacom said it consumed 634.0GWh electricity versus 607.7GWh in 2020.

Vodacom added that total energy costs saved the sum of R16 million, and Green House Gas (GHG) emission reductions came to 12 272 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2 e).

In 2021, total electricity saved was 11 971 megawatt-hours (MWh), the company said, adding that over 1 088 solar-powered sites exist across its markets.

“Renewable energy, procured through renewable independent power producers (IPP) covers 36 base station sites in South Africa,” reads the annual report. “Electricity amounting to 52 035 megawatt-hours (MWh)) was saved.”

Vodacom invested R13.3 billion to maintain and increase network resilience and expand
network capacity during the 2021 financial year.

“We are exploring new ways to build more resilient and sustainable networks with the
help of our suppliers, business partners and energy experts,” reads the annual report.

Also read: What Is Vodacom Doing To Reduce Its Reliance On Eskom?

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