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Fiber vandalism raises eyebrows in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 6 – A player in the telecoms industry is reading foul play into the recent rise of cuts on the fiber optic cable network.

Telkom Kenya’s Head of Corporate Communication Angela Mumo said on Thursday that unlike copper telephone wires, the fiber optic cable has little resale value, implying those cutting the cable were on a deliberate sabotage mission.

Mrs Mumo said the fiber optic infrastructure was too complicated for just anyone to tamper with.
“If you look at the duct where all these cables pass, it would take a trained eye to identify which cable belongs to who, which obviously raises a few eyebrows,” she said.

In October alone Telkom reportedly had 19 cuts on its fiber optic cable. It has spent close to Sh42 million repairing both its fiber and telephone cable infrastructure due to acts of vandalism, over the last two years.

Mrs Mumo said they also had to hire 1,200 guards to secure their cable at an additional cost of Sh6 million a month. For Telkom the problem is even deeper, as the company acts as a courier for many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who rely on its network.

She said in a competitive environment, one has to stay ahead of the pack in service delivery or risk losing market share to the competition.

“Any down time for a customer means loss of revenue which reflects badly on us,” she said adding that vandalism was causing delays in the company’s plans to roll out faster broadband on its network.

“We have to first fix the existing problems instead of moving forward with our goals.”

But Telkom is not the only company to have suffered at the hands of vandals. On Monday, Safaricom suffered from five cuts on its Kenya Data Networks (KDN) cable which rendered all its services in active for over three hours.

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Safaricom termed the incident as an act of sabotage, owing to the amount of revenue lost during the period.

Telkom Kenya has already petitioned the government to impose stiffer penalties to deter vandals. “At the moment, any one caught in the act will probably be let off with a warning or light fine which will most likely see them back the next day.”

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