Econet relies on Tesla batteries in Zimbabwe

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 20 Jan 2020

As power outages take a toll on Zimbabwe’s economy, the country’s leading carrier, Econet Wireless, now relies on hybrid batteries from Tesla as well as solar equipment.

The Southern African nation has been experiencing daily outages of as long as 18 hours daily, which have impacted the economy, including telecommunications.

According to reports, power outages have also been problematic for Econet, prompting the company to install hybrid batteries.

Norman Moyo, chief executive of Distributed Power Africa, a member of the Econet group says: “We were impressed with the performance of Tesla Powerwall during the trial stage. It addresses the power backup requirements, offers 100% depth of discharge and has a wide temperature operating range.”

Last week, in a trading update, Econet said the deployment of solar equipment and hybrid batteries across its base stations and switching centres is “now at an advanced stage”.

Diesel generators come at a higher cost for the company, given fuel supply constraints and price increases in Zimbabwe.

Econet has installed 520 Powerwall batteries, with two going into each base station, which is reportedly the largest telecommunications project in which Tesla has participated to date.

Media reports say with Econet having about 1 300 base stations in the country, and two other mobile phone companies operating there, Distributed Power Africa intends to install more batteries and could eventually roll the project out to other power-starved countries in Africa, such as Zambia, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Moyo said: “Telecommunications have become the lifeblood of the economy. If the telecom network is down in Zimbabwe, you can’t do any transactions.”

The report says Tesla is working with a number of telcos around the world and sees a combination of solar panels and battery storage as a good opportunity to expand its business in countries and areas where electricity supply is erratic or non-existent.

The news of Econet using Tesla batteries comes as criminal syndicates increasingly target South African mobile operators’ base stations, stealing or vandalising critical infrastructure like batteries, copper cables and diesel.

The theft and vandalism of this infrastructure has resulted in the mobile operators losing hundreds of millions of rands.

The rate of vandalism and theft, especially multiple repeat incidents, sometimes forces the operators to abandon base stations due to unviable replacement costs, thereby adversely impacting network availability or quality in some areas.