Telecom worries over network theft, offers reward

The latest in a string of attacks on the fibre optic network in the Erongo Region is a major source of concern for Telecom. In a strong statement issued earlier this week the telecommunications utility said these attacks can cause major communication service outages.

Telecom Namibia said it has invested heavily in its fibre backbone across the country to ensure that what it offers is among the best on the continent. Rapid Internet access is vital for the future of the country, whether for business, pleasure or the education and development of the youth. Unfortunately in recent years the fibre-based network has been prone to vandalism and theft.
“Since 8 August 2015, Telecom Namibia has seen an increase of outright vandalism and theft of poles from the Erongo fibre optic route which links Swakopmund, Henties Bay, Uis, Omatjete, Khorixas, Kamanjab, Outjo, Omaruru, Karibib, Arandis, Usakos and Walvis Bay.The latest incidents occurred sometime between 08 and 12 August in the Usakos area, where five poles were cut and stolen 20 km west of Usakos, while another three poles and then four poles were cut and stolen 5km west and 5km east of Usakos respectively”, said Telecom Head of Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula.
The construction of a national ICT broadband backbone was a bold step by Telecom Namibia to connect all regions, districts and towns to access the 12,000 km long national broadband infrastructure as well as the sea cable, the West Africa Cable System (WACS), that enters Namibia at Swakopmund.
“The national ICT broadband backbone has been built using optical fibre technology. The technology is not only resilient to bad weather but also possesses better characteristics such as its high bandwidth capacity, compactness, low transmission losses, and high signal security. The fibre-based backbone makes it possible for Telecom Namibia and other service providers to deliver affordable, sustainable, reliable and high quality ICT services to all Namibians. At the same time, the fibre optic network facilitates improved service delivery and the growth of private sector initiatives” said Angula.
Similar vandalism and theft in Erongo last year left a large number of people without Internet access, when a dozens of poles were stolen and the fibre-optic cable cut between Omatjete and Khorixas. In that case, perpetrators were looking for copper wire to sell on the scrap metal market but these cables are not made of copper.
Besides the Erongo region,the fibre-optic cables providing network connectivity as part of the Omaheke fibre-optic route were also vandalised between Okatjoruu (Otjituuo) and Ongongoro in the Grootfontein district earlier. This incident disabled fixed and mobile communication services to thousands of customers in Okamatapati and the surrounding farms.
Angula said that the Omaheke ring runs from Gobabis via Epukiro to Grootfontein, and the route allows for new stations at Otjinene, Okondjatu, Okamatapati and Okatjoruu. Damage to the fibre optic infrastructure imposes a huge cost on Telecom Namibia and also creates difficulties for customers in affected areas to enjoy reliable telecommunication services. “When one fibre optic cable is cut, calls and Internet services to all the communities connected to it becomes impossible. This is even worse when the cut occurs at the backbone of the layout. With thousands of kilometers of fibre optic and copper cables running underground and on poles to provide telecommunication service, it is impracticable and impossible for Telecom Namibia to provide security to protect them. We therefore call on all Namibians to exercise patriotism and be a watchdog to safeguard our national telecommunications backbone in their best interest of retaining reliable efficient communication” said Angula.
Telecom Namibia has written a letter to the Erongo Police Regional Commander, Commissioner Samuel //Hoebeb, on 14 August to urge the police to take effective steps to increase police patrols along the B2 fibre route, especially between Arandis and Karibib, to help Telecom safeguard this national asset against criminals. “On our part, we are also engaging with all stakeholders, communities, councillors, traditional leaders and all other interested groups because we believe that police cannot do this work alone.”
The public is once again urged to report any suspicious activities or malpractices around the Telecom Namibia infrastructure to the nearest Police Station or the Telecom Namibia Hotline at 0800 301630 or 061 301630, anonymously.
Telecom is offering cash rewards of up to N$20,000 for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons responsible for committing crimes of vandalism or theft on the Telecom Namibia network.