Johannesburg - Local telecommunications company Telkom [JSE:TKG] says cable theft has cost it over R200m in losses during its 2015 financial year.
Telkom on Monday revealed that it has spent R100m on cable theft repair costs while it has paid another R107m on security services.
The company further said that it’s experienced over 6 000 incidents of cable theft across its copper network over the last year.
Telkom has revealed this information as it announced that it’s ramping up migrating its customers to wireless and fibre technologies to tackle cable theft syndicates.
“It is clear that the price of copper and its strong demand in international markets, are catalysts of this crime,” said Telkom’s group executive for communications Jacqui O’Sullivan in a statement.
“Analysis indicates that increases in theft incidents approximately tracks the level of the copper price – usually with a two to three month lag,” explains O’Sullivan.
The rand per metric ton price of copper in South Africa was R71 251 in April 2016, according to statistics website IndexMundi.
O’Sullivan further said that copper theft has become more sophisticated over recent years.
“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 O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan further said that “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 after replacements or repairs.”
Subsequently, Telkom is looking to migrate its customers in high copper theft hotspots onto new technology platforms such as fibre and wireless - technologies that are undesirable to criminals.
To date, the company says it has successfully migrated close to 4 000 customers in cable theft hotspots to an alternative wireless product dubbed ‘Waya Waya’.
Telkom said this new product allows customers to retain their landline numbers while also benefiting from SMS functionality and a free device.
Meanwhile, the company further said that ADSL customers within its fibre footprint are being given the opportunity to upgrade their copper-based connectivity to the company’s fibre network at no extra cost.
“Telkom is taking every step to ensure that our network is secure and, more importantly, that our customers receive a seamless network experience free of criminal interference,” said O’Sullivan.