Thieves are walking off with Telkom’s network

Company moves customers to wireless and fibre technologies to actively tackle copper cable theft syndicates.

Telkom registered more than 6 000 incidents of copper-cable theft on its network in the past year and as a result is now actively moving customers away from the technology to wireless and fibre alternatives.

The telecommunications operator said in a statement on Monday that copper theft syndicates have become more sophisticated and brazen.

“These criminals now target our manholes armed with customised heavy-duty vehicles, allowing them to hitch the cable to the vehicle and drive out kilometres of cable, cutting off thousands of customers, in a single incident,” said Telkom spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan. 

“Telkom is ramping up efforts to migrate customers to wireless and fibre technologies to actively tackle cable theft syndicates,” she said.

“We face a unique set of challenges when it comes to copper cable theft. For example, there are areas in the Western Cape where gang violence sometimes makes it dangerous for us to send technicians into the area to replace stolen cables. In many high-theft areas, cable is repeatedly stolen, sometimes within days of replacements or repairs,” said O’Sullivan.

She said it is clear that the price of copper and its strong demand in international markets are catalysts of the crime.

“Analysis indicates that increases in theft incidents approximately tracks the level of the copper price — usually with a two- to three-month lag.”

Telkom said it invests heavily in securing the network with armed response, cable alarming and collaborative efforts with the police. However, the vast nature of Telkom’s network makes fighting this crime “extraordinarily tough”.

For the 2015 financial year, Telkom experienced over R200 million in losses — R100 million direct cable theft repair cost and an additional R107 million was spend on security services. The company is due to publish its 2016 annual results next month.

“The cost of cable theft to Telkom is serious and it has a significant impact on thousands of customers each year. To combat this, we are looking at migrating our customers in high copper theft hotspots onto new technology platforms, specifically those which are undesirable to criminals,” O’Sullivan said.

This article was first published on TechCentral. To access the original, please click here.

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hehehe, it reminds me of the farmer who sat on his stoep when he saw the baboons in the field, stealing his corn. Sipping on his brandy and coke he said “Ja steel julle maar, ek suip nog hierdie plaas onder julle gatte uit!”

This is how Luthuli House feels about the cable theft at Telkom.

These syndicates are more sophisticated than it seems. What they are doing is called theft by some, but the correct financial terminology is “asset stripping”. They should be called hedge-fund managers.

what about placing some kind of tracker device or something like the cash in transit boxes had/have a dye activated by forced opening of the cash box.
and more stringent monitoring of large copper users to check on the source of their stock. the buyers of the stolen copper be charged with not only theft but sabotage and thus a stiffer sentence with no option of a fine or suspended sentence. these cases should be fast tracked
maybe instead of sophisticated systems what about a reward for information leading to recover of caches of stolen copper wire that is equal to the value of the copper recovered.

The problem is not intractable. The fact is that in this case crime does pay. For every R1 worth of copper scrap value stolen it costs R25 to fix the network. The criminally negligent and wholly ineffective ANC regime is neither willing nor able to remedy the situation.

Since we cannot rely on a solution from the state, to whom taxes are paid, the solution has to come from rendering the value of the scrap below that which the thieves and those who purchase the stolen metal are willing to risk their freedom.

There are a number of solutions, for example replacing copper cable with the AA8030 alloy. The value of this aluminium alloy is much lower than copper and one can legislate against being in possession of this alloy in a similar way to unwrought gold. Once the scrap dealers are out of the equation the market dries up.

Another solution lies in plating the copper wire with a few per cent antimony. If subsequently melted the resulting alloy is rendered brittle and worthless, and wrecks other good copper in the furnace.

End of comments.

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