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Eight Base Transmitter Stations (BTS) worth an average of Ksh 280 million (US $ 2.8 million) have in the recent past been destroyed following a spate of terrorist attacks and incidences occasioned by political violence following the recently concluded October 26 repeat presidential elections.
According to Engineer Francis Wangusi, Director General, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), vandalism of mobile telecommunications masts and other forms of infrastructure were noted in some parts of the country, particularly in Kisumu County in the aftermath of the just-concluded electioneering period while Mandera, Garissa and parts of Lamu counties had also been affected due to terrorist attacks.
“This worrying and dangerous trend has caused network and service outages in the affected areas thus putting the lives of Kenyans at risk, given the significant role that telecommunications services play in provision of emergency response and other basic critical services. This malicious destruction of ICT infrastructure also threatens to erode the massive investments and other gains that have been made in the sector,” said, Engineer Wangusi.
“This worrying and dangerous trend has caused network and service outages in the affected areas thus putting the lives of Kenyans at risk, given the significant role that telecommunications services play in provision of emergency response and other basic critical services. This malicious destruction of ICT infrastructure also threatens to erode the massive investments and other gains that have been made in the sector”
Engineer Francis Wangusi, Director General Communications Authority of Kenya.
Kenya today boasts of 94.4% and 78% coverage of 2G and 3G mobile voice services, respectively. About 164 sub-locations out of the 7,149 in the country have 0% mobile network coverage while 348 sub-locations having less than 30% mobile network coverage.
“To vandalize the existing infrastructure, when industry players are investing billions of shillings to deploy ICT infrastructure to close existing communication gaps, is not only a demonstration of bad faith but also unacceptable,” he added.
He further stated that destroying the BTS infrastructure under the false belief that it belongs to particular operators was misleading, saying that the Base Stations in the country accommodate multiple players through infrastructure sharing arrangements.
According to the ICT Access Gaps study carried out by the Authority in 2016, over 70 billion Kenya Shillings (US $ 700m) is required to close the existing ICT gaps in Kenya. The recently experienced vandalism of ICT infrastructure is therefore retrogressing all efforts to ensure all Kenyans access communications services and making the investment burden of facilitating universal access even more onerous.
In 2015, The Government set up a special unit to protect Critical infrastructure in the country. The unit was proposed by a bill formulated to look into the protection of Critical Infrastructure, and would be domiciled at the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
The Critical Infrastructure Bill which is yet to be passed by Parliament will cover the protection of infrastructure, ranging from telecom infrastructure to road infrasctructure.
According to a report, Government and private sector players lose an estimated 2 billion shillings annually arising from various forms of damage and degradation to infrastructure in Kenya. Once in force The highest penalty for those who bridge the law is a fine of not less than five million shillings or an imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years.
Wangusi also pointed out that, plans were underway to have the Base Stations manned under 24 hour CCTV surveillance.