TelOne mulls decommissioning copper cable infrastructure

TelOne CEO Lawrence Nkala

THE country’s landline telecoms provider, TelOne, says it will be decommissioning some of its copper cable infrastructure to stem rampant vandalism, which cost the firm US$1 million last year.

Chief executive officer Lawrence Nkala said under the programme, copper cables would be replaced by technologies, such as optic fibre and wireless access solutions.

The firm this week said it recorded 316 live network attacks during the year-ended December 31, 2023, with about US$1 million lost.

TelOne said the value of vandalised network in 2023 stood at US$518 827, while an estimated business loss for the period stood at US$480 950.

Officials said higher levels of copper infrastructure vandalism were now threatening TelOne.

“As our strategy in the short-term, we have increased our physical security patrols in partnership with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP),” Nkala told the Zimbabwe Independent.

“We have also fortified some of our routes with alarms, a move that has greatly improved the security response time and has led to an increase in the rate of arrests.

“We are, however, cognisant of the fact that replacing copper with newer technologies like fibre and LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless solutions, which are less susceptible to attacks is the long-term solution. Not only does this tame the menace of network thefts, but it also guarantees superior service for our clients.”

The firm has also partnered with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and state security agencies to step up patrols at the country’s borders to fight copper smuggling.

According to statistics seen by the Independent, TelOne recorded the highest live network attacks in Harare in 2023, followed by the Midlands Province.

Matabeleland North had the least number of attacks.

The number of those arrested during the period was 38, with only four convictions.

Dealers are reportedly taking advantage of the disharmony of legislative provisions to circumvent the law by exporting scrap under the Second Hand Goods Act as opposed to the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe Act.

TelOne has since started replacing copper infrastructure in some parts of Chitungwiza, Gweru, Bulawayo and Harare.

While these interventions have been critical in curbing copper theft, there seems to be no lasting solution in place, given the slow pace of  deployment of the new technologies, a challenge that the company has attributed to lack of capitalisation.

Security and risk expert Proctor Nyemba said there was need to tighten internal controls to curb cable theft.

“The problem is that people who used to work at these institutions have been retrenched and know the loopholes at the organisations,” Nyemba said.

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