ZIMBABWE’S telecommunications (telcos) are battling vandalism of critical network infrastructure, which is affecting service delivery, officials have said.
According to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe media and corporate communications executive Fungai Mandiveyi, vandalism was costing the telecommunications industry millions of dollars every year.
“Unfortunately, cases of vandalism of telco infrastructure, such as theft of long-life lithium batteries and diesel fuel to power back-up generators at mobile base station sites, continue to cause outages for communities around the sites, depriving them of vital connectivity,” he said in response to questions from journalists attending a telecommunications media workshop in Harare last week.
“Vandalism of telco infrastructure is placing a significant cost on telcos, with equipment worth millions of dollars vandalised or stolen from operators’ sites every year. This also affects service delivery when sites are down because of vandalism or theft of vital components, and it heavily impairs the customer experience.”
He noted that Econet had been hit particularly hard, with over 1 700 vandalism incidents recorded in the past four years.
Econet, the largest mobile network operator in the country, has 5 322 base stations spread across the country, according to data from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.
The latest development comes after State-owned telecommunication company, TelOne, said in July that vandalism incidents on its infrastructure rose by 20,7% in 2022 compared to the prior year.
“The business is also under threat due to network theft and vandalism, especially on the copper network, with at least US$510 000 being recorded in lost revenue and network elements for the period ending December 31, 2022,” TelOne head of corporate communications Melody Harry said.
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She added that the losses stemmed from 402 network vandalism incidents recorded during the year.
Meanwhile, Mandiveyi called on communities to join forces with the telcos and the police to fight vandalism by helping operators to protect telecommunication infrastructure in their neighbourhoods.
“As Econet, we are doing everything we can to protect our infrastructure from vandalism. But we call upon the public to help by quickly reporting suspected cases of vandalism to the nearest police station,” he said.
Vandalism, which has become a regional menace, has also been reported by South African operators.
Telkom, South Africa’s third largest telecommunications company, recently indicated that it lost 1 800 batteries in the last six months valued at an estimated R450 million (US$24,5 million).
Serame Taukobong, Telkom’s group chief executive officer, said the company’s efforts to secure the batteries had resulted in criminals vandalising the base stations housing them.