Cable thieves, vandalism, and load-shedding are major disruptors of Internet connectivity in South Africa.
Openserve CEO Althon Beukes has said that copper line theft and damage cost the fibre network operator tens of millions over the past year.
“Copper line theft has a significant impact on connectivity, and it costs the telecommunications sectors millions of Rands every year,” Beukes said.
“Data gathered by Openserve shows that more than 800 areas across SA have been identified as hotspot areas for cable theft and vandalism, where thousands of copper DSL customers are heavily affected.”
“Copper line theft and damage has cost Openserve more than R60 million over the past year,” he said.
Criminals steal infrastructure such as copper cables and electrical equipment to make easy money and with each incident, thousands of homes are left without electricity for many hours or days.
Major economic impact of cable theft
The result of this vandalism and theft is that businesses that have no access to generators have to close and lose money as they cannot operate during that period.
Openserve said that many small businesses have become heavily reliant on the Internet to be able to conduct their business operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and disruption to connectivity due to cable theft and vandalism can place them at a significant disadvantage.
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) estimates that cable theft costs the South African economy between R5 billion to R7 billion a year.
Cable theft can also result in power outages, which affects traffic lights causing more congestion on the roads, street lights, telephone lines, and network.
Openserve noted that power cuts leave many South Africans who do not have backup power supplies without Internet for hours at a time.
“Getting reconnected to your internet may be delayed once electricity returns as your device has to reconnect to the fibre network,” Openserve said.
“Much like cable theft, load-shedding has a significant effect on the domestic economy as it disrupts business activity.”
“Unfortunately, load-shedding is a necessary process in order to meet the current electricity demand,” it added.
The fibre network operator advised that users check their load-shedding schedule and plan. This includes charging your devices, meal planning, and purchasing battery-powered lights.
Load-shedding is also a significant drain on the economy, costing South Africa between R60 billion and R120 billion in 2019.