For GPHSA, this is by far the busiest sector for backup generators as our footprint and fleet size is attractive to all operators in the country. We currently look after over 20 000 cellular sites nationally and provide anything from 2hrs backup power to over 5 years of continuous diesel power to sites. It is estimated that network operators do own at least 15 000 of their own generators, but these need constant servicing every 500hrs and diesel supplies every 2 to 10 days of operation depending on tank sizes. An average 20KVa generator goes through 2,5litres of diesel an hour, which is not significant considering that we have towers we support that generate about R1m in revenue per minute in voice and data traffic for operators. In some cases, we have towers that have up to 21 connected sites meaning, if one tower is out of power, an entire region is offline and millions in revenue are lost per minute.
Our fleet of vehicles covers 800 000km per month nationally servicing these sites and we have about 300 of our own generators daily out on hire across the country on just network operations alone.
Besides load shedding, key drivers of activity in this sector are vandalism of sites, theft of batteries and components and the general failure of aged electricity infrastructure. We have seen one network operator close down 89 sites due to vandalism in this year alone. Unfortunately the operational costs are one of the factors that keep data rates high in SA and this is a situation that has to be managed actively by all stakeholders.
The expansion of network services to include 4G and 5G means a lot more sites and infrastructure needs to be rolled out locally. One of our customers has planned to build and commission 1100 new sites in the next 12 months. Due to the remote location of cellular sites, electrification is often a process that takes anything from a week to 5 years on a site and operators are under pressure to deliver services as soon as the sites are built. Generators therefore plug the supply gap between commissioning of site and electrification and allow quicker returns on infrastructure through less down time and higher utilisation. This is one sector that has seen growth of between 46% and 54% annually over the past 4 years in generator demand and likely to continue.