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Minister, telcos in a joint effort to restore connectivity in KZN

Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni (middle) is flanked by the CEOs and senior executives of MTN SA, Vodacom and Sentech. (Image source: Twitter)

Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni visited KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) yesterday to assess the damage to ICT infrastructure following the recent devastating floods.

This, while the deadly floods in KZN have caused extensive damage to critical ICT infrastructure, disrupting essential connectivity.

Mobile operators’ telecommunications infrastructure was destroyed by the floods, with Vodacom and MTN saying more than 900 base stations were affected by the relentless rain.

The main areas affected are Durban South, South Coast, Umlazi, Malagazi, Amanzimtoti, Ballito and Salt Rock.

The minister was joined on site by representatives and CEOs of major telecom operators, including Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub and MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi, as well as senior executives from public entities Broadband Infraco (BBI), Sentech and SITA.

Speaking at a press briefing broadcast on SABC, Ntshavheni said the parties had agreed to set up a joint technical team – made up of MTN, Vodacom, Liquid Intelligent, Rain, BBI, Sentech and SITA – to assess the progress of restoring sites that are down. .

The minister said work is underway to restore sites that remain inactive. “We may not be the first responders, but in telecommunications and ICT, we are the business continuity team.

“It is important that we arrive immediately with the stability that has been established by the first responders … to ensure that the communication links are restored. Even the teams doing the relief efforts will need connectivity to reach these communities. »

She pointed out that the areas most affected by the floods are in the KZN and the northern part of the Eastern Cape, noting that similar efforts will be made for the latter.

“In the meantime, we have dispatched the interim managing director of SITA to go to the Eastern Cape today, in order to re-establish the connections there.”

The Minister also said, with regret, that in this difficult time, communities continue to vandalize telecommunications infrastructure. She called on the public to be patriotic and to work together, especially in times of crisis.

“It’s not time to vandalize, it’s time to work to rebuild. We must be the first security of this infrastructure because when communities are isolated, it means loss of life in some cases because they will not be able to access health services.

Responding to ITWeb’s questions about progress being made to restore Vodacom’s network infrastructure, spokesman Byron Kennedy said that more than 270 of the 400 affected sites are now operational.

This, according to Kennedy, was made possible by the deployment of generators. As a result, network availability has improved by more than 90% across the province, he says.

“Our engineering team continues to work hard to restore connectivity as quickly and safely as possible. We average a repair rate of 40 base station sites per day. Some of our biggest challenges that keep us to carry out work at some of our sites include road closures, damaged roads, as well as ongoing power outages.

“The impact of the power outages is that we have a total of 155 generators running 24/7 to power some of our sites. We remain confident that as the rains ease we will be in able to bring more sites back online.

MTN SA saw more than 500 of its sites down in the region, the operator revealed at the time.

Jacqui O’Sullivan, Head of Corporate Affairs, MTN SA, said: “MTN has restored connectivity to most of its towers which were impacted by heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal which caused infrastructure damage and power outages. widespread, resulting in more than 500 MTN sites. in the area last week.

“Currently, MTN has only 50 sites that remain inoperative due to flooding. These 50 sites are largely affected by access issues, where roads have been washed out or severely damaged.

“In the event of an emergency and to ensure that our customers are connected, MTN has deployed 190 temporary generators and redirected its network traffic from the affected sites to more accessible areas. Some of these areas include parts of Umlazi, Amanzimtoti and Isipingo.

“MTN wants to assure affected customers that our technicians are working around the clock to restore connectivity to their area,” O’Sullivan concludes.