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Compiled by Devina Haripersad

Budget 2024: Telecom sector calls for diesel rebates and tackling of infrastructure damage

The use of diesel generators to ensure backup power for cell towers in distant and underprivileged regions means a notable operational cost.

The telecommunications sector is urging Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana to give priority to two crucial areas that have a significant impact on both the industry and the wider community: mitigating the effects of load shedding and addressing damage to telecommunication infrastructure.

The Communication Risk Information Centre (COMRiC) and the Association of Comms and Technology (ACT) urge the Minister to explore the possibility of offering diesel rebates to the telecommunications industry.

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The entities have said the use of diesel generators to ensure backup power for cell towers in distant and underprivileged regions means a notable operational cost for them.

Diesel generators

“In the face of electrical outages, which are particularly common in regions with unstable power grids, diesel generators ensure network uptime, maintaining crucial communication channels for both consumers and emergency services,” the COMRiC explained.

The entities said offering a rebate on diesel would not just ease the financial strain on providers, ensuring ongoing service reliability, but also allow redirected cost savings to fund network expansion, technological enhancements, and the adoption of more sustainable energy solutions.

“This initiative would significantly contribute to improving connectivity in rural and underdeveloped areas, fostering inclusivity and economic growth. 

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“During 2023, it is estimated that telecommunication companies spent more than R1.1 billion in diesel to power up critical infrastructure,” they said.

Law enforcement budgets

COMRiC and ACT added they would also like to see an increase in the law enforcement budget dedicated to fighting crimes against telecommunications infrastructure.

“The rampant theft of high-capacity batteries and diesel fuel, driven by criminal syndicates, poses a severe threat to networks’ integrity and resilience.

“These criminal activities not only incur substantial financial losses for providers but also jeopardise the security and reliability of communications for millions of South Africans.

“By enhancing police visibility and capacity, we can more effectively combat these crimes, safeguarding our infrastructure and ensuring uninterrupted service to the public,” the joint entities concluded.

COMRiC involves South Africa’s top telecommunications operators working together to safeguard networks from criminal activities, while ACT partners with various stakeholders throughout the ICT ecosystem to promote a robust communications and telecommunications industry.

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