Damaged roads delay cellphone tower repairs in flood-hit KwaZulu-Natal

MTN and Vodacom are working to restore sites impacted by floods in KwaZulu-Natal.

MTN and Vodacom are working to restore sites impacted by floods in KwaZulu-Natal. Getty Images

  • MTN and Vodacom have deployed generators to sites damaged by floods in KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Of the 500 MTN sites impacted by the last week floods, 50 remain out of service.
  • Vodacom says access to some areas is made difficult by damaged road infrastructure.

Repairs to cellphone towers damaged during the last week floods in KwaZulu-Natal are being hampered by the destruction of road infrastructure that has made some parts inaccessible but service has been largely restored.

But the impact of ongoing load shedding has added a challenge.

Last week, the country’s two largest cellphone network operators, Vodacom and MTN, announced that hundreds of their towers were affected, causing signal challenges in some areas around Durban.

On Thursday, Vodacom said over 270 of the 400 affected sites were back to service, as the company deployed 155 generators to affected areas.

“As a result, network availability has improved by more than 90% across the province.”

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said the biggest challenge faced by technicians from accessing some of the infrastructure were “road closures, damaged roads as well as continued power outages”.

Eskom had since last week implemented load shedding as it generation capacity came under pressure from breakdowns. On Tuesday, the power utility escalated load shedding to Stage 4 before it reduced to Stage 3 on Wednesday, as several generation units at Arnot and Kendal, Lethabo, Camden and Matla power stations returned online.

Load shedding is, however, expected to remain in force until Friday. The heavy rains that battered the province last week knocked out power lines and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and homes, causing the deaths of more than 400 people.

MTN says it has deployed 190 temporary generators and rerouted its network traffic to the affected sites. The affected areas include parts of Umlazi, Amanzimtoti and Isipingo. Some 500 MTN sites in the region were reported to be down, but the number has reduced to 50.

The company said “access to some of the impacted sites remains a major challenge”.

Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi says repairing damaged homes in the province would cost R1.9 billion. Some areas around Durban are still without water, due to damaged infrastructure. The floods were the most severe to hit the region in recent memory.