Phone Firms Reel From Cables Theft in Kenya


Competition in the telecoms industry is getting vicious as a number of players make accusations of sabotage. Last Monday, millions of Safaricom mobile phone subscribers were unable to use the firm's services owing to a disruption of its network which it attributed to "acts of sabotage" on one of the cables it relies on to carry voice and data traffic.

As a result, there was an unusually high rate of dropped calls with most not terminating as required. The outage also affected the firm's data services including Internet access.

The disruption was caused by five cuts on the Kenya Data Networks (KDN) cable in Nairobi on which Safaricom depends to carry voice and data traffic. The five consecutive cuts started at 11 am, with the last one at 3.20 pm on the same day.

A statement from KDN's chief marketing officer Vincent Wang'ombe said three cuts were caused by other telecommunication operators who are laying their own fibre cables while two were caused by two separate vandals. The fibre cuts occurred along Thika Road, Mombasa Road, Outer ring Road and on Waiyaki Way.

Wang'ombe said the Safaricom network runs in a redundant ring and thus is not easy to cut. However, he added that the five cuts which targeted different redundancies were not all deliberate following initial investigation by his firm's engineers.

On Tuesday, Telkom Kenya, another mobile phone service provider said that after staging an operation in the city's Wanyee area in collaboration with security firm Pinkertons, it managed to nail three suspects struggling to unearth a copper transmission line. Telkom Kenya head of corporate communications Angela Mumo said her company had also petitioned the government to institute stiffer penalties on convicted vandals.

As a deterrent measure against transmission system theft, the firm says it has moved to beef up its undercover surveillance in a bid to rein in vandals who have been occasioning the firm an average Sh30 million loss monthly.

Daily Nation