Telecom Namibia slams network vandals

Telecom Namibia has expressed concern over an upsurge of network vandalism impacting its fibre optic backbone network.

The telco noted that it had invested heavily in the construction of a national fibre optic broadband backbone, which had been was a bold step to connect all regions, districts and towns to access the 12,000 km long national broadband infrastructure as well as the sea cable landing on the shores of Swakopmund, known as the West Africa Cable System (WACS).

Unfortunately, it said, in recent years the fibre-based network had been prone to vandalism and theft.

The most recent in a string of attacks on fibre optic backbone network in the Erongo Region is a major source of concern as the attacks can cause major communication service outages.

Since August 8, 2015, Telecom Namibia has seen an increase of outright vandalism and theft of poles from the Erongo fibre optic backbone route which links Swakopmund, Henties Bay, Uis, Omatjete, Khorixas, Kamanjab, Outjo, Omaruru, Karibib, Arandis, Usakos and Walvis Bay. The latest incidents were reported to have occurred sometime between August 8 and 12 in the Usakos area, as follows: 

 - 5 poles cut and stolen 20 km west of Usakos

 - 3 poles cut and stolen 5 km west Usakos

 - 4 poles cut and stolen 5km east of Usakos

The Erongo route is also used to transmit internet data to neighbouring countries.

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 Erongo, the  fibre-optic cables providing network connectivity as part of the Omaheke fibre-optic backbone route was also vandalised between Okatjoruu (Otjituuo) and Ongongoro in the Grootfontein Constituency of the Otjozondjupa Region earlier. The incidence disabled fixed and mobile communications services to thousands of customers in Okamatapati and surrounding farms.

The Omaheke backbone ring network runs between Gobabis via Epukiro to Grootfontein, and routes allows for new stations at Otjinene, Okondjatu, Okamatapati and Okatjoruu.

The company said the escalation in incidents of vandalism of and theft from the Telecom Namibia network infrastructure which appear to involve the same methods and patterns as past attacks is concerning. It noted that the damage imposed 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.

Telecom Namibia has called on the Erongo Police to take effective steps to safeguard the network, and urged the public to report to vandalism the Telecom Namibia Hotline at 0800 301630.

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