Criminals, possibly from within the industry, have begun targeting fibre broadband companies deploying infrastructure in South Africa.
FTTH Council Africa president Richard Came said there has been a spate of armed hijackings targeting local fibre broadband installers, with the perpetrators stealing equipment used by the companies to deploy fibre network infrastructure into homes and businesses.
Specifically, they are after “fusion splicing equipment”, Came said. This is a machine that is used to align two fibre ends precisely and then “fuse” or “weld” the glass end together to produce a continuous connection.
“This seems well organised, as they know exactly what they want and approach vehicles on the side of the road demanding exact equipment,” Came said. This equipment is specialist and expensive to acquire.
“This has resulted in a demand for second-hand equipment. It is obvious that this demand has been recognised and to satisfy this, some individuals have resorted to conducting hijackings.”
Came said the FTTH Council Africa, an industry body, is aware of at least six hijackings that have taken place in Gauteng in the recent past.
“It is a worrying trend, especially as it seems very well organised. These criminals are demanding very specific equipment and know which operators use which brands. They are targeted for specific machines and models.”
The FTTH Council Africa is now looking at preventative solutions and intends calling a meeting with several of its advisory committees shortly to discuss the matter and make recommendations to its members.
“A first step will be to ensure that all equipment can be traced, and companies need to consider technologies such as radio frequency identification,” Came said.
Also, all sellers and resellers of fibre installation equipment should keep a strict record of serial numbers, which will “further aid in keeping record of equipment in the field”.
According to the council, operators “need to report theft to the police and inform the companies from which they bought the equipment of serial numbers of stolen equipment”.
“Any equipment brought in for service or repairs must be cross referenced and operators must be informed if suspicious equipment is received,” it said.
“Buyers also need to be aware as they will not even know that they are procuring stolen goods, and they need to ask the right questions.”
The council warned that any of its members found to be “participating in activities not conducive to the positive growth of the fibre industry will have their membership revoked”.
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