Telecom Hunts for Copper Wire Thieves

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK Telecom Namibia is offering rewards to anyone who gives information that could lead to the arrest and successful conviction of thieves who stole copper wires belonging to the company. The copper wires were ripped from the network over the festive season, disrupting services to dozens of rural customers. Since the advent of the festive season, Telecom Namibia experienced a number of service disruptions in the Otjozondjupa region, as well as the Kunene and Erongo regions, affecting dozens of rural customers. Telephone services were disrupted on several occasions in the rural districts of the Otjiwarongo-Otavi-Outjo triangle due to increasing incidents of copper wire theft. In a press statement yesterday, the national telecommunication company ascribed the disruptions to its telephone services to the theft of copper wire and appealed to anyone with information to call its 24-hour toll free number 0800666666 or the nearest police station. “A huge area south of Otjiwarongo is also experiencing service disruption as a result of theft of copper wires over a 255-metre distance, some three kilometres outside the town on January 08, 2006. As a result, 10 rural customers are still unable to make or receive telephone calls,” acting Head of Corporate Communications and Public Relations Oiva Angula revealed in a press statement yesterday. The company is expecting these customers to be reconnected by tomorrow, while for 21 rural customers in the Otjitaazu area, west of Otjiwarongo, where 3 500 metres of copper wire were stolen on January 03, services were restored yesterday. The company cautioned scrap metal dealers not to buy the stolen copper wire and for transport operators or cargo carriers not to transport illegal copper products. To the potential thieves Angula warned: “The potential thieves are equally warned that stealing copper wire from the national telecommunication network is an illegal exercise.” Theft of copper wire from the company has become a perennial problem and results in financial losses and service disruptions. Apologising to customers for the disruptions, Angula said the company was dedicated to providing a premium quality service. He acknowledged that the unabating acts of theft and vandalism of its telecommunications network impact badly on the quality of service Namibians expect from it as the country’s leading provider of communications. He said the company has put in place a number of active measures to combat the theft of copper wire. These include the installation of alarm systems on telephones wires, tightening security measures on manholes, and installing optic fibre cable with no resale value. In addition, Telecom has introduced more and more wireless and satellite technologies to minimise copper networks over time, he said, adding however it was not always feasible to replace copper wires with optic fibre or wireless connections and hiring patrols to guard the huge telecommunications infrastructure over the vast country was equally impossible. “Telecom Namibia had been able, in some areas, to replace pure wire with a different product made of an alloy, in which copper is only one small component; as a substance it is less valuable and desirable to thieves, and cannot be melted down readily for other uses.”