South Africa is haunted by the spectre of load-shedding and energy shortages that have hurt the lives and livelihoods of millions. Stage 6 load-shedding, battery theft, infrastructure vandalism and sabotage are also seriously hampering telecommunications operators’ ability to invest in networks. This affects network quality and coverage, service delivery and customer satisfaction.

Since the start of stage 6 load-shedding, mobile network operators (MNOs) have spent billions of rand buying diesel to run base stations, replacing stolen batteries and replacing generators which have seen their life expectancy reduced from 12-15 years to five years. Batteries cannot recharge in time and there is no backup. The heavy reliance on diesel increases the carbon footprint, the net effect being that the country’s net zero climate change targets and the MNOs’economic, social and governance (ESG) targets will be missed. This should be very concerning to policymakers, regulators, the priva...

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