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Telcos suffer losses from fibre cuts

BY: Suleiman Mustapha


TELECOM companies have suffered an upsurge of fibre optic cable cuts mainly caused by road construction across the country in spite of making several reports to the Ministry of Roads and Highways. Currently there are six telecommunications companies operating in the country.

Statistics from the Telecoms Chamber suggests that telecom companies in the country last year (2013) suffered a 30 per cent increase in cable cuts.

This means that in last year alone 2110 cable cuts  were  recorded compared to 1,605 in 2012 and 480 in 2011.

Three-quarters of the cuts occur during road construction, followed by small-scale illegal mining, which is responsible for 10 per cent of cuts. The rest are theft, vandalism and bushfires.

Head of Research at the Ghana Telecoms Chamber, Mr Derrick Laryea has told the Graphic Business in an interview that network challenges such as call drops, speech mutation, calls not going through, poor voice signals and quality among others are due to rampant cuts in underground fibre optic cables during road construction and other development activities.


MTN worst hit by fibre cuts

In an interaction with the Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA), officials of MTN said the telecom companies last year alone, spent over GHs20 million in repairs and replacement of fibres that were damaged across the country due to construction works.

The Chief Engineer at MTN, Mr Kwaku Avor, said that practice was frustrating the operations of the telcos, particularly MTN.

To be put in perspective; the layout is in three categories which are the Backbone, Metro and fibre to the office (FTTx). A cut at the FTTx affects 10 to 15 cell sites, while a cut at the metro affects 15 to 100 cell sites. However, if it occurs at the backbone, it would disrupt communications within an entire region or the entire network whose cable is cut.

Damage to the fibre optic cables imposes a huge cost on the service providers and also creates difficulties for customers in affected areas to enjoy reliable telecommunication services. When one fibre optic cable is cut, calls and Internet services to all the communities connected to it becomes impossible. This is even worse when the cut occurs at the backbone of the layout.

 “NCA gives us a four-hour time frame to find and repair a damaged fibre, meanwhile it could take up to six hours just to locate a cut, ” he said.

Interestingly, there are clear demarcations and signposts to indicate where the telecom fibres, water pipes and electricity cables are, but some road construction workers seem to ignore the warning signposts and excavate.

According to Mr Avor, fibre cuts occur on a daily basis, and in some cases at more than one spot on a stretch of fibre connected to hundreds of cell sites serving more than one community.

Between 80 and 90 per cent of transmissions of all the telcos pass through fibre hence a cut or puncture affects service quality greatly. The fibre optic cable has bigger capacity to carry more calls and data compared to microwave and the satellite systems.

MTN, the largest communication service provider in Ghana, recorded 506 cuts in 2012, and this increased to 804 cuts in 2013, and by June this year, the company had already recorded 436 cuts.

The situation is getting worse by the day in spite of a vigorous campaign to sensitise the public to it.  Meanwhile the telcos have promised to work with stakeholders such as the Association of Road Contractors, Ghana Highway Authority, Department of Feeder and Urban Roads among others to try and find ways to avoid the fibre cuts that occur when road construction is ongoing. GB