Lampposts to become broadband towers - TechCentral

Lampposts to become broadband towers

Eben Albertyn

Eben Albertyn

MTN South Africa has secured a tender from City Power, Johannesburg’s electricity supply agency, to turn lampposts into cellular base stations in a move the operator believes will go a long way to solving coverage challenges not only in South Africa’s largest city but across urban South Africa.

In the past week, the mobile operator has deployed the first two such towers in the leafy suburb of Bryanston, with more than 100 more to follow before Christmas, its chief technology officer, Eben Albertyn, tells TechCentral.

Albertyn says that through its deal with City Power, MTN is entitled to replace any of the approximately 110 000 lampposts throughout the greater Johannesburg region with this specially designed base station infrastructure. It is the only mobile operator that has permission from City Power to replace Johannesburg’s lampposts and is now in discussions with municipalities elsewhere around South Africa about extending the project to other cities.


An MTN lamppost base station being installed alongside Bryanston Drive

When MTN identifies a site that needs better coverage, the company literally replaces the entire lamppost with a new, much stronger pole, which is made of thick, reinforced steel and which integrates the base station equipment, including the radio apparatus. It is then hooked up to electricity and to fibre backhaul, which MTN will supply. Naturally, the lamppost still provides street lighting. Only a trained eye would recognise that it’s not simply a lamppost, says Albertyn.

In terms of the City Power deal, MTN may only use local pole manufacturers that have been approved by the City of Johannesburg. The poles are designed to withstand even the strongest gale-force winds and are earthed and their equipment shrouded to protect them from lightning. However, if lightning destroys a site, MTN will immediately replace the equipment, says Albertyn.

The operator pays a monthly fee to City Power for each the sites it deploys. Constructing a site takes 11 hours from start to finish – this is significantly quicker than building a traditional base station, he adds.

Albertyn says he expects some residents will be unhappy with the concept, but he says MTN has no choice if it’s going to extend coverage to everyone. He says he residents should be “assured that MTN has gone through all the proper channels to make sure it has obtained and is compliant with all health and safety regulations, as well as by-laws — both at a council and a national level”.

The project will also bring fibre closer to people’s homes, he says. This will play an important part in MTN’s broader plan to roll out home fibre in South Africa and will also help communities install security camera infrastructure in their neighbourhoods. “There will be some fallout [from unhappy consumers], but the benefits are massive,” he says.

MTN intends deploying about one lamppost base station a day for the rest of the year as part of phase one of the project. By Christmas, it will have more than 100 such towers in place in areas such as Bryanston, Sandton, Woodmead, Northcliff, Westcliff, Kyalami and Fairland. It is specifically focusing on areas where its 3G and 4G/LTE coverage needs improvement.  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media


  1. Actually, that’s a brilliant solution to the coverage problem. Well done to MTN, hopefully the rest of the players will jump onboard as well!

  2. @disqus_SBfHLGVXDW:disqus I’m working on a FTTH proposal for some suburbs in that area. PM me if you want details.

  3. Cool idea, but what happens when cable / copper / metal thieves vandalise these lamp-posts in order to make a quick buck? What about backup power for these new lamp-posts, when Eskom decides to load shed, or City Power has issues at the local substation or Izinyoka strike?

    Also, where are the pics?

  4. The Emperor has no clothes... on

    I’m working on a FTTH proposal for some suburbs in that area. PM me if you want details.

  5. I drive past them every morning. I’ll take a pic on my way past tomorrow and post it.

  6. Not so cool idea.. have they actually done some research in terms of what the towers would contribute to such as cancer. Maybe they need to revisit the carte blanche show where people got sick due to towers within the suburb area..

  7. And in the south please. The latter always seems to be ignored by everyone. A concern to me would be interference to other signals such as TV etc.

  8. Barent Strydom on

    Wow!!! Northcliff , Sandton, Bryanston…bla bla bla.!!! No mention of Tembisa , Soweto, Atteridgeville, Mamelodi…communities where these operators are still battling with capacity. What solutions do they have for rural connectivity ?? The more things change..the more they stay the same!!

  9. grahamseaton on

    You forget that these will be gap filling sites which will run at a much reduced power level, as they only serve a limited area not being covered by the main base stations.

    Also, if this radiation is a concern to you then you must ditch your microwave oven, your wireless router, your tablet, your mobile, your remote control for your car security. Oh, if you have a radio connected security alarm system, then disable this, maybe it will kill you! you should also disconnect your electricity supply to your home as the electricity reticulation running through your walls and floor and ceiling radiate electromagnetic radiation.

    I have worked in a high RF environment for the last 40 years without any effects. I really get worked up with people who make a big issue out of something that they know little about.

    By the way, if you have a brick built home, there are Gamma rays whizzing out of the bricks all the time, so maybe you should wallpaper with lead sheeting, oh sorry, lead is also bad for you.

  10. As far as I know the deal has also been signed by Vodacom so this will benefit Vodacom customers too. Great initiative!

  11. Thanks a mil for the pic. Would not say that I would not notice this, the big base and the dome at the top is a clear giveaway that this is not just a lamppost.

  12. Andrew Fraser on

    Not to mention the amount of radiation (both ionising and non-ionising) that we receive everyday from the sun,… and the stars, and from the earth, and from our food… it goes on…

  13. I am not worried
    1) These run at far lower radiation outputs than the conventional BTS base stations
    2) There isnt any conclusive scientific proof anyway

    But most important I understand that these stations are a small fraction of the conventional BTS Stations output

  14. Brilliant idea, the fight for lamppost in the future will be interesting one…. When do you plan to start in Pretoria?