By Oiva Angula
14 August 2015
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 12,000 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).
The national ICT broadband backbone has been built using optical fibre technology. The technology 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 improving the lives of Namibians.
Telecom Namibia has invested heavily in its fibre backbone across the country to ensure that what it offers the people of Namibia will be amongst the best in the continent. Rapid Internet access is vital for the future of the country, whether for business, pleasure or the education and development of the country’s youth. Unfortunately in recent years the fibre-based network has been prone to vandalism and theft.
The latest 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 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.
With thousands of kilometers of fibre optic and copper cables running underground and on poles to provide telecommunication service in Namibia, it is impracticable and impossible for Telecom Namibia to provide security to protect 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.
Telecom Namibia has written a letter to the Erongo Police Regional Commander, Commissioner Samuel //Hoebeb, on 14 August 2015 to urge the police to take effective steps, to increase police patrols along the B2 fibre route, especially between Arandis and Karibib, to help us safeguard this national asset against criminals. On our part, we are also engaging with all stakeholders – communities, councillors, traditional leaders and all other interested groups because we believe that police cannot do this work alone.
The public is once again urged to report any suspicious activities or malpractices around the Telecom Namibia infrastructure to the nearest Police Station or the Telecom Namibia Hotline at 0800 301630 or 061 301630, anonymously.
Telecom Namibia offers cash rewards of up to N$20,000 for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons responsible for committing crimes of vandalism or theft on the Telecom Namibia network.