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  • Load shedding will limit their ability to cut data prices, cellular operators warn.
  • Operators have been spending millions on emergency power supplies and security personnel to protect cellphone towers.
  • Stage 4 load shedding places additional strain on towers as batteries are increasingly unable to recharge before load shedding returns.  

South African cellular providers warn that continued load shedding will limit their ability to cut data prices.

This as operators spend millions on emergency power supplies and security for cellular towers across the country.

Rain South Africa, the country’s newest cellular provider, said they have already installed backup power supplies at all towers, and generators at key sites.

“[Load shedding] will significantly impact our ability to drive the costs of data down, as our underlying costs will be higher,” Rain's chief marketing officer Khaya Dlanga told Business Insider South Africa.

Also read: This is what will happen to your cellphone signal if load shedding drags on

The country’s largest cellular provider, Vodacom, said various input costs, including the emergency electricity to supply to cellular towers, will impact its data pricing.

Increased stage 4 loadshedding places additional strain on its network as cellular towers’ batteries are unable to sufficiently recharge before loadshedding returns, it added.

“Vodacom spends significant amounts on backup power solutions such as diesel generators and batteries to maintain power to our sites during periods of protracted load shedding,” the operator said.

“Additional input costs and revenue losses amount to tens of millions of rands.”

Also read: Poor maintenance and management decisions are still at the heart of load shedding crisis – here’s why

Business Insider South Africa previously reported that vandalism of South African cellular infrastructure nearly doubles during load shedding.

Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN South Africa’s executive for corporate affairs, said the operator had to spend roughly R11 million to replace batteries at 100 sites in Gauteng alone the past year.

Each new battery at a cellular tower comes at a high cost to network providers, and ultimate trickles down to consumers, she said.

“Network operators across the country have [already] been battling sophisticated syndicates that have been stealing batteries daily.”

“However, load shedding is seeing entire neighbourhoods cloaked in darkness at predictable times, which is offering criminals greater cover for their thieving.”

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