The theft of batteries from base stations around South Africa has become a significant problem for mobile operators, costing them into the hundreds of thousands of rand every time criminals break into a site.
But operators have started fighting back with the help of local technology company Poynting — better known for its antennas that help boost mobile telecommunications signals. Poynting has developed a solution called the MagiCube, which it claims makes it virtually impossible for criminals to steal the batteries that the operators use at base stations to keep them running when there’s a power interruption, such as during load shedding.
Already, the company has signed up Vodacom as a client. A patented concrete enclosure, the MagiCube is being deployed to 50 high-risk base stations.
“Battery theft has overtaken copper theft in terms of intensity and disruption of telecoms service,” says Poynting executive chairman Andre Fourie.
The company estimates that South African operators lose more than R150m/year in theft from and damage caused to their base stations.
Criminals often raid and vandalise vulnerable base stations and steal the batteries for resale or to harvest lead, causing losses of up to R120 000 per base station in batteries alone, let alone the lost service revenue and inconvenience to customers, says Fourie.
In the past, operators have typically used brick-and-mortar enclosures or even thick steel battery safes, but these have proved ineffective, he says. Perimeter fencing and door locks are also easily breached.
The MagiCube is a pre-cast concrete enclosure with walls up to 150mm thick and with a special locking system and removable opening mechanism. Poynting claims the concrete is stronger than steel, while being significantly cheaper.
It is designed to protect the batteries from the weather, offer sufficient heat dissipation — the solution has been tested in Upington — and allow for cable access. It is typically installed outside the main container at a base station site. This, Fourie says, discourages thieves from breaking into the equipment container and damaging the very expensive radio equipment fitted inside. — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media