South African service providers such as MTN, Telcom and Vodacom have been targeted by criminals without any care for the destruction they cause thus leaving communities without communication services throughout the country.
According to Byron Kennedy, Vodacom spokesperson, cell phone/ mobile base stations are increasingly being targeted in South Africa as criminals are wrecking these cellular base stations at a rate of 60 base stations per month thus becoming a challenge to keep a network running.
The criminals resort to copper theft, stealing batteries from cellular towers, and even stealing fibre to make certain products. Base stations are wrecked apart so that the criminals can access what they want to steal and this means it will also take time to repair and refurbish the damage caused.
The cost of these criminal wreckages extends far beyond network damage. Mobile operators experience repair costs, loss of revenue, security costs, an increase in customer complaint and network quality concerns. Consumers are also affected much. The network damage results in service unavailability thus an impact on emergency services, and a significant impact on businesses using the affected networks. Each theft incident severely affects all the surrounding communities which include schools and businesses that rely on the Internet. People cannot make emergency calls and eventually these criminals will cost someone’s life one day according to Kennedy.
In an effort to curb theft and vandalism at mobile base stations, the mobile operators spend millions on security. These security upgrades include installing electric fences, security doors on containers, security cameras and pepper gas units, and dialler units to alarm sites. However, it seems that not even a concrete wall is enough to keep the criminals out the mobile network destruction continues.