Power cuts crippling mobile network operations


Electricity outages in Zimbabwe are lasting up to 18 hours a day, and there is looming increase in tariffs and this will likely force mobile networks to switch off their base stations as they face huge operational bills.

The electricity shortages have increased the demand for diesel, which is needed to keep base stations running as. backup, pushing the average costs of maintaining stable mobile network connections.

Besides the main fuel issue, experts said there are more operational and maintainance costs when there is no power supply, which is ballooning their Opex by more than 50%, while revenue is already declining due to low usage.

Alternatives like solar farms which Econet has already installed are very ideal, but these also demand more batteries to store the charge, which comes in very heavy as capital expenditure to maintain the network fully.

Besides the Econet exception, other mobile networks do not run solar farms to maintain their own networks, relying on generators and diesel costs

Network uptime by all the mobile service operators has remained above 90%, while maintaining service provision in such times comes at a much higher cost, but the mobile service providers fear that they won’t be able to maintain this uptime for longer.

It does not also make any business sense to continuously run diesel based base stations for a community that is highly likely to be disconnected and powered off, meaning these same hours would soon not warranty such support as there is low user uptake

More technical support is now needed to run and maintain the network base stations with downtime in the dark and overtime on outage based maintenance, the operation costs are skyrocketing.

Experts said more security is also now needed as automated facilities are now more often turned off, needing so much human intervention and manual checkups, which is more expensive.

Where cameras would ordinarily help with CCTV for security and remote monitoring plus footage back up, most stations are now switched off due to the power outage, requiring physical security on the ground, ballooning costs

Normal mobile usage has drastically dropped as most subscribers are switched off, or at most keep their mobile phones only for urgent call and data services as they try to save battery power for the night.

The Average Revenue Per User ARPU has drastically dropped as well, the cost of living is biting subscribers, shifting connectivity essence to a luxury, while it has always been a basic necessity.

Unfortunately, connectivity blackout looms, this will soon be inevitable as operators are only going to consider maintaining costs in profitable areas, which in Zimbabwe, has been worsened by lack of affordable power supply