Ghana service providers spend over $5M repairing cable cuts

Service providers in Ghana saw a spike in fiber and copper cable cuts during the first nine months of this year, a trend that's collectively cost them GHS 10 million (USD 5.2 million) to repair damage and restore service.

According to a Ghana News Agency report, the country's service providers, including incumbent Vodafone Ghana (LSE:  VOD.L), said there were over 600 cable cut events. While most of the incidents were due to road construction and repairs, there was also a spike in theft and vandalism of copper and fiber cables.

Vodafone Ghana has asked the community to be on the lookout for suspicious activity around their network infrastructure, including manholes where copper and fiber cable is housed. Similar to the U.S. and the UK, there's been a spike in thieves trying to sell scrap copper cable for a quick profit.  

A Vodafone staff member was able to detain six vandals who were pulling underground cables into a truck early one morning. This theft affected about 1,200 Vodafone customers.

In addition to cracking down on cable theft, Ghana's National Communications Authority and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications have held meetings to better understand how stakeholders in the telecom infrastructure, including both telecom providers and local communities, can work together to better determine the cost of cable cuts and who should pay for them.

However, during a recent meeting held last Thursday in Accra, none of the participating stakeholders could come to an agreement on who is responsible for cable cuts and how to assess the costs of these issues.  

With the focus of that meeting centered on how service providers can get permits to lay cables on public and private Rights of Way (ROW), participants noted a lack of collaboration and not enough organization around who are issuing permits to the service providers to lay the cables.

Cable theft and dealing with complex ROW agreements is not just relegated to Ghana.

In the U.S. and the UK, incumbent carriers including AT&T (NYSE: T), FairPoint (Nasdaq: FRP), Frontier Communications (Nasdaq: FTR), and BT (NYSE: BT), have been developing a number of programs to curb copper cable theft.

AT&T has offered various rewards for copper thieves, while in West Virginia, which is served mainly by Frontier Communications and Lumos Networks, the state Senate has developed a bill to curb copper theft.

Taking it a step further, BT has developed what it calls the RABIT (Rapid Assessment Bt Incident Tracker) that detects when and where a cable cut has occurred. Additionally, BT Openreach in 2010 implemented a forensic ink called "Smart Water" on its cabling, tools and other equipment, which allows police to identify items stolen from the provider.

For more:
- Ghana News Agency has this article
- and this article on the community efforts

Related articles:
West Virginia copper theft law seems to be working—for some
AT&T strikes back against copper theft in Phoenix with $5K reward offer
FairPoint fights copper theft in its New England territory
BT gets RABIT on copper thieves' trail
West Va. Senate develops bill to curb copper theft