Thieves damage Tanzania's ICT backbone

Johannesburg, 14 Mar 2012
Read time 1min 50sec

Vandalism of Tanzania's underground fibre-optic backbone network has resulted in Internet outages in some parts of the country. That is according Peter Phillip, an engineer at Tanzania's ministry of communications, science and technology.

Phillip reportedly made the comments while speaking at a Cisco event late last week about the role the ministry is playing in developing Tanzania's ICT sector.

He said connectivity disruption in that country has occurred in certain areas owing to thieves digging up parts of the country's underground backbone network in an attempt to steal copper cables.

The first phase of Tanzania's 10 674km land fibre-optic backbone cable connects the Seacom, Eassy and TEAMS undersea cables on Africa's east coast to Dar es Salaam, and towns and cities in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

"In our recent survey we found that there are some people in Arusha and Mwanza, who have been excavating the fibre-optic cable... because they think it is copper wire that could be sold to scrap metal dealers," Phillip was quoted as saying, in an East African Business Week report.

Unlike copper, fibre-optic cables are not easy to sell on the black market, says Danson Njue, a research analyst with Informa Telecoms and Media.

Nevertheless, Njue says about 80% of all cable vandal incidents in the region involve fibre-optic networks. And the problem is affecting East Africa negatively. Operators are spending large amounts of money to try to deal with the damage to cables.

Orange Kenya, for example, has disclosed that it incurs losses of $5.97 million per year because of cable vandalism occurring on its networks. The damage to underground networks is also holding back the rollout of broadband services in that region, says Njue.

“The increased cases of cable vandalism [are] certainly affecting telcos in their quest to deliver broadband services in the region.

“Telcos have also been forced to increase the security surveillance on their networks so as to reduce the theft cases. This has certainly affected their plans to expand broadband services in the under-served... areas,” he notes.

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