Copper cable theft between April last year and the end of January has cost Telkom R863-million, the telecommunications provider said on Monday.
In a statement, Telkom said the ”alarming surge” in copper cable theft was the biggest inhibitor in its capability to improve service levels.
”The increase in copper cable theft is creating an environment of a rapidly deteriorating service quality and is severely affecting the delivery of sustainable ICT [information and communications technologies] services to customers,” said operations chief Motlatsi Nzeku.
”In many high-theft areas, cable is repeatedly stolen, sometimes within days after replacements or repairs.”
Nzeku said the direct impact of cable theft included the disruption of essential services and the costs of replacements or repairs.
”We are observing a new trend in the deliberately determined cycle of theft. This is damaging businesses, depriving our customers of a basic service and, in some cases, adversely affecting their security.
”Of course this is affecting our capacity to deliver services within acceptable time intervals,” he said.
Nzeku said Telkom had and would continue to ”fight back” by: installing alarms on critical and sensitive cable routes and employing armed security firms; implementing wireless technologies as alternatives to copper; assessing vulnerable aerial cable routes and, where feasible, burying these underground.
The provider would also work with the Non-Ferrous Theft Combating Committee (NFTCC), put in place a national campaign to raise awareness of its toll-free crime-report line (0800 124000) and engage with the government and relevant stakeholders.
”One such initiative is to re-classify copper either as a semi-precious or precious metal … [and] to re-classify theft of copper cable providing essential service as sabotage,” he said.
Since routes had been fitted with alarms, 157 people had been convicted out of 1 043 arrests.
Despite this, Nzeku said theft was still ”spiralling out of control” and criminals had become more daring and adventurous.
He said affected customers did qualify for pro-rata rebates on their rental charges.
”[I]n the near future, Telkom will be able to automatically pass credit against services that are affected by cable theft,” said Nzeku. — Sapa