Telecom Namibia says it can’t do away with copper cables on its network despite increased disruptions and major economic losses caused by theft.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer, Telecom Chief Executive Officer, Theo Klein, said the technology is still very much relevant to the sector.
“Copper cables still do have another 100 years to exist. Telecom Namibia does have one of the best developed and maintained copper networks, with huge investments made to date. The entire developed world is still using copper as a means to provide services,” Klein said.
He added that wireless is currently not a solution, as it does not have the capacity to handle the demand for broadband services.
“Fibre is the answer, which will equally require huge investments.”
This comes as the company loses about N$500,000 each time its copper cables are stolen.
“Every time the cables are stolen in an area, communications services to businesses and households are disrupted,” he said.
Last year alone, six copper cable theft incidents were reported, according to Klein, meaning the company could have lost close to N$3 million in damage to the cables and associated infrastructure.
Just this month, vandals struck the Brakwater area outside Windhoek , damaging a fibre optic cable that left several households in the area, including Elisenheim, without voice and Internet services.
Barely five days into the New Year, copper cable thieves struck at the Telecom Namibia underground network in the southern part of Windhoek, disrupting voice and data services in the Cimbebasia suburb, which is bordered by Prosperita to the north and Kleine Kuppe to the east.
A 1000 pair copper cable was stolen on the corner of Mataman and Arimas streets, when thieves broke the locks of two manholes and gained access to cut the cable. At least 500 to 800 business and residential customers were affected.
Klein said Telecom has now resolved to install fibre cables in all new residential and industrial areas, as well as in Government institutions.
“This will replace the primary side of our copper network, leaving only the distribution cables, much shorter and smaller and less exposed for theft.”
Telecom will join hands with NamPower and the City of Windhoek and approach the Prosecutor Generals’ Office to enforce The Second Hand Goods Act, 28 of 1998 as it does cater for the prohibition of dealing with copper and imposes a minimum restriction on the quantity one is permitted in law to possess.
“It criminalises the dealing of copper and brass. Ultimately copper cables of Telecom should be classified by law as essential national infrastructure. As the economic recession in Namibia continues, our infrastructure remains at risk. South Africa is suffering from the same evil of copper theft.”
Last year, www.iol.co.za reported that in South Africa copper cables theft is a multimillion-rand export business by thieves, dodgy scrap dealers and criminal syndicates - who sell to copper-thirsty economies in the East, mainly India and China.
Telkom, Eskom and Transnet - along with municipalities - are the chief targets.