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Environment

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About the Project

Background

Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTC) intends to expand their network coverage countrywide with the objective of providing 100% population coverage to all Namibians. This initiative will result in the construction of 554 new Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) across all 14 regions of Namibia over a two-year period.


Importance of This Project

Due to the increasing demand for mobile voice and data services in Namibia, the pressure to continuously expand the mobile communications footprint is increasing. By embarking on this project, MTC will increase their national footprint which will benefit particularly the remote and rural areas. MTC will deploy new 2G, 3G and 4G sites as well as upgrading existing sites with technologies like 3G and/or 4G. In doing this, the proposed project will ensure that the quality of the service provided to the mobile users in all regions of Namibia is improved.


Environmental Assessment Practitioner: GCS (Pty) Ltd

GCS Water Environmental Engineering (Pty) Ltd (GCS Namibia) is a fully integrated water, environmental, and earth science consulting services company based in the Republic of South Africa, with offices in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and the Czech Republic. GCS provides a professional consulting service in the fields of environmental, water and earth sciences. GCS has a team of highly trained staff with considerable experience in the fields of environmental and water science.

GCS Namibia will act as the Independent Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP), as well as the Public Participation Practitioner for this environmental authorisation process.

Environmental Assessment Process

The Environmental Management Act (Act 7 of 2007)

The establishment of communication networks is a listed activity under the Environmental Management Act (EMA) which requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the construction of “communication networks including towers, telecommunication and marine telecommunication lines and cables”.

This definition includes fibre optic lines, indoor antennae, antennae on existing infrastructure, temporary sites, as well as base transceiver stations (BTS) of various heights.

Because the project occurs at a national level GCS Namibia has been instructed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to engage in a national Environmental Assessment (EA) process in order to apply for an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) for the envisaged sites.


Purpose of the EA Process

Initially the envisaged Environmental Assessment process would have been presented in the form of a National Environmental Assessment (EA). However during further consultations with the DEA it was concluded that we are no longer to call this project an EA due to the fact that the legislation for the undertaking of an EA has not been passed (See FAQ: What has changed?).

Consequently, the approach for the national EA was aligned with the requirements of the Environmental Management Act (Act 7 of 2007) to include three phases, namely:

  • Phase 1: Screening
  • Phase 2: Scoping
  • Phase 3: Detailed Assessment (EA)


Phase 1: Screening

The process was initiated in January 2017 with the main objective to consult with the various affected Ministries/Authorities to establish their concerns and recommendations regarding a strategy for implementation. Secondary to this, a team of specialists was put together to consider how environmental sensitivities will be approached on a National level.

Criteria was established for the No Assessment Sites and Environmental Exemption was requested from the DEA for all current and future proposed sites that adhere to these criteria. The approach to assessing the remaining Scoping Assessment and Detailed Assessment Sites in the EA was presented to and accepted by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

  • No Assessment Sites –Sites that are not considered sensitive and pose no environmental risk (e.g. antennae in malls or on buildings)
  • Scoping Assessment sites - Sites that pose a low risk and has a low environmental sensitivity
  • Detailed Assessment sites - Sites that pose a medium to high risk and has a medium to high environmental sensitivity

Phase 2: Scoping Assessment

This phase involves review of baseline information for the study. It includes information about the legislative framework, the receiving biophysical and social environment information, and any other information that could be used to elaborate on or substantiate the current baseline conditions. The focus is to identify what information is available which will in turn guide work in the subsequent phase.

At the end of Phase 2 (upon submission of the draft Scoping Assessment Report for Environmental Clearance from the DEA) a recommendation will be made for the Scoping Assessment Sites based on the condition that the Generic Environmental Management Plans (EMP) per region is implemented.

The regional Generic EMPs contain recommendations that should be applied during the construction and operational phases of all MTC sites including a description of a chance-find procedure should archaeological significant sites be unearthed during the construction process.

Seeing that the Scoping Assessment Sites are considered low risk sites, the objective with the EMPs in this phase is to lessen the risk to acceptable levels by:

  • providing a description of the Scoping Assessment Sites contained in each region that would aid the monitoring process and
  • providing comprehensive management guidelines for implementation.

Phase 3: Detailed Assessment

This is the core step of the EA. Potential risks associated project implementation are assessed. This stage will not only provide detailed information on the ecological, social and economic setting of potentially sensitive areas in Namibia, but also provide an opportunity for MTC to achieve their short and long term objectives while operating in an environmentally sustainable manner.


Stakeholder Consultation

Stakeholder Consultation will be undertaken during all phases of the project to ensure a focused and effective public consultation process. Consultation will form the basis of the entire national environmental assessment process ensuring that all Namibians are informed and have an opportunity to take part in the process.

Coverage

Cell phone Coverage: What does it mean?

Cell phones connect to a communications network by means of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS). Each tower creates a cell that ensures that a user stays connected as long as it remains within the bounds of the cell. Should the user move to another cell during a connected call or data session, a handover process takes place to the closest cell without disconnecting the session.

Cell phone signal travels in a straight line and has limited penetration capabilities. Therefore, the strength of the signal is easily influenced by physical obstructions such as buildings and trees which may cause interferences.

In hilly areas ‘dead zones’ may be created because a direct signal between the handset and the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) is blocked by the surrounding topography. It may also be that there are gaps in between the cells where they do not completely overlap. This is typically where users will experience dropped calls.

If a user passes through an area with poor reception, the cell phone will automatically boost its power to reach the nearest Base Transceiver Station (BTS). This momentarily increases the power output of the cell phone and causes a sharp reduction in battery power.

Correlation between poor reception and the phone’s power output

Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) can only accommodate a limited number of users at any one time which is split between voice calls and data sessions. During peak traffic periods this number can incrementally increase which may cause the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) to become congested. Service providers try to avoid congestion by lessening the load on one site and transferring it to the next nearest site. However, this too may lead to dropped services.

Dropped calls and poor reception lead to customer complaints which MTC logs and use to identify potential problem areas.

Map of Existing Sites

Map of Existing and Proposed Sites:

Interactive Map

Show fullscreen map, click here.

NOTE: Double click or mousewheel the area you would like to zoom. Select pointer / dot to open the details of that Site.

Technical Information

Types of Structures:

Depending on the need, MTC will consider using the following types of towers in the design of the project:

Lattice towers are self-supporting structures that are generally made out of steel.

Monopole towers consist of a single tubular mast and seldom exceeds heights of 60m.

Guyed towers are monopoles or lattice structures that has guyed ropes to stabilize it because of its height. These towers normally exceed heights of 80m.

The height of the structures will vary between 10m, 15m, 25m, 48m, 60m, 80m or 120m depending on the terrain. Where only infill coverage is required to ensure that the cells overlap, shorter structures will be used whereas taller structures will be used in areas where there is dense vegetation (e.g. the Kavango and Zambezi regions) or where a larger area needs to covered by a single cell (e.g. the southern regions of Namibia).



Types of Antenna:

Antennae come in different shapes and sizes depending on the specific need. Two main groups can however be distinguished:

Omni-directional Antennae are designed to provide 360 degree coverage from one antenna. It is used in instances where coverage is needed. Because of the dispersed nature of this type of antenna, the signal is generally weaker and is therefore ideal to provide coverage over short distances.

Directional Antennae are designed to focus the signal in a particular direction over greater distances. It allows for increased performance when transmitting and receiving information and ensure reduced interference from unwanted sources. It is often used when a signal is to be submitted over a longer distance through a number of obstacles such as buildings.


Bandwidth

The bandwidth of the antennae refers to the range of frequencies that can effectively be supported. It normally covers the 800-900 MHz bands as well as the 1800-2100 MHz bands.

The UMTS frequency bands are used for the third generation (3G) communication networks. The various bands are deployed to different regions. The 900 and 2100 band is specifically assigned to Namibia.


2G vs 3G Technology

The main difference between 2G (2nd Generation) and 3G (3rd Generation) Networks is that the downloading and browsing speed of mobile phones are much faster on 3G networks compared to 2G. The average speed of data transmission on a 2G network is 170 kbps compared to 3G that can reach speeds of 43,000 kbps (more than 250 times faster).


Infrastructure and services

Power will be required for each site. Where it cannot be obtained by creating a link to the current NamPower grid, solar energy will be utilized.

Road access will also be required to each site, and where it is not currently available it will have to be created


Resources and construction process

Typically about five people are required during the construction phase and the same number or less during operational and maintenance phases.

During the construction phase the structure is bolt together and the antennae attached to the structure before is it erected in a dug hole of about 6 meters deep. It is then grounded with cement for stability.

Construction normally lasts about two weeks. Approximately three days are required for the digging of the foundation and while waiting for the foundation to dry, the tower is laid down.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions:

ABOUT THE PROJECT


  1. What is the objective?
    • To increase MTC’s national footprint in rural, suburban and urban areas to achieve 100% population coverage.
  2. How long will the construction phase take and when will this project be completed?
    • Construction will take approximately two years with the anticipated date of completion October 2019.
  3. Would this project bring employment opportunities to the region and would MTC request local contractors to build the sites?
    • Construction work will be put on tender and advertised in the media as required. Locals will be considered for unskilled labour where applicable.

COVERAGE


  1. What is the current coverage like in Namibia?
    • Currently MTC provides 95% coverage to the Namibian population. In most rural areas, this coverage only includes 2G with limited access to 3G.
  2. What improvements would the 554 sites bring in terms of coverage and service?
    • By rolling out the 100% population coverage project, MTC will deploy new 2G, 3G and 4G sites as well as upgrading existing sites with technologies like 3G and/or 4G. This will benefit particularly the remote and rural areas.
  3. How would I know what improvements will be effective in my area?
    • You can contact GCS Namibia to find out if a site is planned in your area or you can click on the interactive map under the “coverage” tab to check for yourself.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION


  1. How would permanent structure be different from temporary structures?
    • Permanent structures are put up in areas that have been identified to have a problem with coverage to provide a permanent solution to the problem. These sites are constructed by erecting the structure in a dug hole of about 6 meters deep and then laying a foundation.
      Temporary structures are meant to provide a temporary solution in an area where coverage or capacity problems exist e.g. for a specific event such as a sporting event where many people are temporarily expected in an area that may become congested for that period. These structures normally do not include the construction of a foundation (exceptions do exist) and often include antennae on top of a van.
  2. What is the difference between BTS and Optic Fiber?
    • BTS (Base Transceiver Station) refers to the equipment that is used to transmit information wirelessly between the network and the user’s equipment (e.g. cell phone). It is normally housed in an equipment container next to the BTS tower.
      A BTS tower is the physical structure that is used to hold the antennae that transmit the signal to and from the BTS. They come in different forms but in this project the three main types that will be used are the lattice tower, monopole tower or guyed tower which will either be a lattice or monopole tower with guyed ropes to stabilize it.
      A fibre optic line or cable comprises a bundle of glass threads, each of which is capable of transmitting information modulated into light waves. Fibre optics allow phone companies to send unlimited amounts of data and is often used to provide backhaul from the BTS to the BSC (Base Transceiver Station Controller) and CORE network (central part of a telecommunications network). The main difference between a BTS and a fibre optic cable is that BTS function wirelessly and therefore provide signal to wireless devices such as cell phones.
  3. Difference between coverage and capacity problems?
    • Coverage problems occur when there is no network cell to cover an area or where there are gaps in between network cells. The problem is resolved by providing a BTS that could create a network cell and therefore provide coverage.
      Each Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) only have a limited number of users that it can accommodate at any one time which is split between voice calls and data sessions. If the number of users exceed the capacity of the BTS, the site becomes congested which means that data sessions will become slower and users may experience dropped calls. The problem is resolved by providing additional capacity in the area to lessen the load.
  4. Do the towers or antennas have a life span?
    • The antennae of a cell phone tower typically lasts up to 1 million hours. As a result, a site usually requires very little maintenance. Software can normally be upgraded from MTC’s head office and it is really only when hardware needs to be upgraded that maintenance is done on site.

THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PROCESS


  1. Who are the independent consultants appointed to lead the environmental process?
    • GCS Water Environment Engineering Namibia (GCS Namibia)
  2. How has the process changed?

    Considering the magnitude of information associated with the EA process, some information has changed since the start of the process:

    • The EA project is now called a National Environmental Assessment (EA)
    • The number of sites has increased from 524 to 554 based on specific requests from the public and technical reconsiderations.
    • The location of some sites have changed (see Interactive Map).
    • The scoping report and associated appendices will be circulated for public review for a period of 2 weeks from date of circulation.
  3. What is the legal framework in Namibia to obtain environmental clearance?
    • The Environmental Management Act of 2007 requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the construction of “communication networks including towers, telecommunication and marine telecommunication lines and cables”.
      Initially the envisaged Environmental Assessment process would have been presented in the form of a National Environmental Assessment (EA). However during further consultations with the DEA it was concluded that we are no longer to call this project an EA due to the fact that the legislation for the undertaking of an EA has not been passed.
  4. When was the Scoping Assessment completed and what was were the outcomes of it?
    • The scoping assessment process has been completed and the outcomes of the process can be viewed in the Scoping Assessment Report. This report is now available for public review and will be circulated for two (2) weeks before it is finalised and submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in an application for an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC).
  5. Why is a Detailed Assessment required for certain sites?
    • During the Screening Phase some sites were identified to be more environmentally sensitive than others. The main issues considered for environmental sensitivity during this initial phase include the impact on birds, ecology, archaeology, civil aviation, human health, social and visual. The impacts will be verified and addressed during the subsequent phases of the national environmental assessment process.
  6. What are the impacts on wildlife and birds?
    • The main impacts of BTS on wildlife and birds relate to physical disturbance during the construction phase (e.g. the effect on breeding species in the immediate area during construction) and direct collision or obstruction during the operational phase (e.g. collision of certain bird species with guyed towers or the effect of a structure on the migratory route of some wildlife). Consultants included on the project team include ornithologists and ecologists that will provide specific input on the potential impacts of the project on birds and wildlife. Their findings and recommendations will be included in the national environmental assessment process, with necessary recommendations in the Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
  7. Should the population be concerned about radiation?
    • The National Radiation Protection Authority of Namibia (NRPA) is the governing body for sources of radiation in Namibia. The NRPA is guided by the science and research studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) on the possible adverse health effect of non-ionising electromagnetic fields (EMF) at any frequency less than 300 GHz.
      The current standing of the World Health Organization is that “exposure to low level RF fields (such as those emitted by base stations) do not cause adverse health effects” (WHO, 2012).
      A team of consulting specialists have been put together to provide input on radiation throughout the entire project. Therefore radiation concerns will be addressed in the national environmental assessment process. However, more information can be obtained from the NRPA.

Links to external sites regarding Radiation for personal interest:

Interested and Affected Parties (I&AP)

Public involvement is an essential part of any environmental assessment process. Interested and Affected Parties (I&APs) include any person or organisation that will be directly or indirectly involved and/or affected by the project.

To be recognised as an I&AP and to be kept informed of the proposed project and Environmental Assessment process going forward, one must register as an I&AP with GCS to be added to the Stakeholder Database for the project. You may communicate via fax, email or telephone to obtain further information or comment on the proposed project (Please see “Contact GCS” to the left of this information).

Registered I&APs will be kept informed of the Public Participation Process (PPP) throughout the Environmental Assessment process, will be given the opportunity to review and comment on the EIA process reports and documents and will receive feedback on how comments have been taken into account, as well as the outcome of the assessment. All comments will be recorded and presented to the project team and competent authority by means of the Project Comments and Responses Register (CRR).



Public Participation Process

During the Scoping Phase, consultation with stakeholders will be done on a National (relevant Ministries), Regional (all Regional and Local Authorities and parastatal entities) and Local level (general public). In order to ensure that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate, meetings will take place in all Capitals of all Regions during the month of August.

Official adverts will be placed in four mayor newspapers and radio announcements will be made. Communication channels for all Interested and Affected Parties (I&APs) to engage with the independent consultants will include online information, a direct phone line and email address, fax line and postal address.

While the comments period for the Scoping Phase will close on the 28th of August 2017, all other channels of communication will remain open until the end of the national environmental assessment process in order to allow all I&APs access to information.



Contact GCS

GCS Water Environmental Engineering Namibia has been appointed as the Independent Consultant to carry-out the national environmental assessment process. Your comment or question will be sent to their Communications Team in order to register you as an Interested and Affected Party (I&AP) and to address your questions.


Please contact GCS:

  • Contact Persons: Eloise Carstens or Giesberta Shaanika
  • Telephone: +264 61 247 996
  • Fax line: +264 61 238 586
  • Cell - SMS: +264 81 457 8276
  • Website: http://www.mtc.com.na/environment
  • Email Address: contact-us@gcs-na.biz
  • Postal Address: PO Box 81808, Windhoek

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