Telecom Namibia has since August 8 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. Telecom has now offered cash rewards of up to N$20 000 for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons responsible for vandalising or stealing from the Telecom Namibia network.
According to Telecom’s spokesperson, Oiva Angula, the latest incidents were reported to have occurred sometime between August 8 and 12 in the Usakos area. This includes five poles cut and stolen 20km west of Usakos, three poles cut and stolen 5km west of Usakos and four poles cut and stolen 5km east of Usakos.
“The latest in a string of attacks on the fibre-optic backbone network in the Erongo Region is a major source of concern as the attacks can cause major communication service outages. The Erongo route is also used to transmit internet data to neighbouring countries,” said Angula in a statement released yesterday.
He added that similar vandalism and theft in Erongo last year left a large number of people without internet access, when dozens of poles were stolen and the fibre-optic cable between Omatjete and Khorixas was cut. In that case, perpetrators were probably looking for copper wire to sell on the scrap metal market but the fibre-optic cables are not made of copper.
Angula added that besides Erongo, the fibre-optic cables providing network connectivity as part of the Omaheke fibre-optic backbone route were also earlier vandalised between Okatjoruu (Otjituuo) and Ongongoro in the Grootfontein Constituency of Otjozondjupa Region. The incident 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 allow for new stations at Otjinene, Okondjatu, Okamatapati and Okatjoruu.
“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. 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,” explained Angula.
He noted that with thousands of kilometres of fibre-optic and copper cables running underground and on poles to provide telecommunication services, it is impractical and impossible for Telecom Namibia to provide security to protect all of 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.”
Angula said Telecom has since written a letter to the Erongo Police Regional Commander, Commissioner Samuel //Hoebeb, on August 14, to urge the police to take effective steps to increase police patrols along the B2 fibre route, especially between Arandis and Karibib and to help safeguard this national asset against criminals.
The public are urged to anonymously report any suspicious activities or malpractices around Telecom Namibia infrastructure to the nearest police station or the Telecom Namibia hotline at 0800 301630 or 061 301630.
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 000km national broadband infrastructure, as well as the sea cable landed on the shores of Swakopmund, known as the West Africa Cable System (WACS).
The national ICT broadband backbone was built using optical fibre technology, which 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 infrastructure 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 backbone infrastructure facilitates improved service delivery and the growth of private sector initiatives, which are vital to improve the lives of Namibians.