South African telco MTN Group has joined forces with the Gauteng Provincial Community Police Board to clamp down on network infrastructure theft and vandalism.

Such damage to telecoms infrastructure in the country isn't new, but MTN Group appears to be fed up with the ongoing problem.

The telco said that the partnership will "safeguard tower infrastructures and reduce network downtime, thereby minimizing its impact on the connectivity experience of subscribers."

MTN Group
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The first stage of the partnership has been implemented in Soweto, where a command center has been established with laptops, printers, and other necessary equipment for data collection.

MTN said it will utilize technology such as CCTV cameras and Wi-Fi points, to detect criminal activity.

"We're currently witnessing an unprecedented surge in vandalism and theft targeting networking infrastructure," said Ramsey Mosethedi, GM of stakeholder relations at MTN SA.

"To address this issue, MTN has chosen Soweto as a proof of concept for a partnership between us and the government aimed at finding a solution ahead of rolling it out across the country."

MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi has blamed the increased vandalism and theft on the loadshedding issues the country has encountered.

"Persistent loadshedding in recent months has resulted in a significant increase in theft of network assets and vandalism of our tower infrastructure," he said.

"These criminal activities come at a high cost to the company and they also prevent communities from accessing the network and staying in touch and connected - to work, the emergency services and to each other."

South Africa has suffered from lengthy outages in the past due to its aging infrastructure, which relies on coal-fired power plants and is more prone to breakdowns.

The country has regularly had to implement loadshedding measures, with South African power utility Eskom introducing Stage 6 power cuts in the past. Eskom effectively cut 6,000 megawatts from the national grid, meaning six hours without power for South Africans.

Rival operators Telkom and Vodacom have also noted issues with vandalism and theft to their respective network infrastructure.

In January, Telkom, along with South African Police Services (SAPS), revealed that more than 3,000 people have been arrested for such crimes, adding that the partnership has resulted in less theft at their sites.

Acknowledging its own issue with these crimes, Vodacom said it has increased security at its base station sites, through the installation of CCTV cameras, back in September.

The company also revealed it's deploying hardened security cabinets to safeguard essential infrastructure, such as batteries, with steel-clad containers equipped with alarms to deter unauthorized access.