PURA Hosts Fiber Cuts Forum to Strategies Progress

PURA with telecoms stakeholders

The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) with its stakeholders in the telecoms industry on Thursday 7th July 2022 held a day-long forum on frequent fiber cuts at Ocean Bay Hotel on the theme: improving the communication resilience of our ICT infrastructures.

The purpose of the workshop was for stakeholders to discuss and understand the root causes of the persistent fiber cuts in the telecom industry in The Gambia.

In his welcome address, Mr Yusupha M. Jobe, Director General of PURA discloses that the workshop seeks to investigate and ascertain the root cause(s) of frequent fiber cuts and suggest recommendations for optimization to curb this unfortunate situation. To establish the gravity of the impact when there is a single fiber cut, double fiber cut, and/or triple fiber cut. The causes of the fiber cut along the various corridor of the regions. And, to understand whether the occurrence was deliberate or accidental. Solicit the support of these key stakeholders in assisting to protect the existing or already deployed fiber infrastructure, he explains.

Mr Jobe believes that the workshop with its outcome discussions, when implemented, will improve the general network and quality of service delivery of the various network operators in the country which are attributed to frequent fiber cuts as well as reduce their cost of operations, improve quality of service hence enhances customer satisfaction.

He said in the present day it is almost mandatory to be always connected to the ICT services. That includes your phone, internet, TVs, ATMs, Banks, Forex Bureaus, and other devices as they all connect to the internet, the World Wide Web.

 According to Mr Jobe, when fiber-optic cables are cut or damage occurs, data and/or voice outrages take place. He states that this translates into losing internet connection, data storage, and even cell phone-based voice connection in certain areas or multiple areas.

He argues that: “Fiber-optic outages isolate people by slowing telecommunication and work-related activities nowadays amongst others. Having access to communication services can save a life in some emergencies.”

 He informs that, recently there have been persistent fiber cuts by various activities, posing many challenges to the players in the industry and causing hardship in meeting the network quality expectation of their customers. He also discloses that a lot of fiber cut incidences increase the operational expenditure, declining revenue margins of the telecommunications /ICT service providers, and above all reduce the robustness of the fiber cable.

He announced that GAMTEL through the support of The Gambia government and the African Development Bank deployed a national fiber cable backbone infrastructure as part of the ECOWAS Wide Area Network project (ECOWAN). This, he further adds, over 1,000 kilometers of optical fiber network infrastructures were deployed across the length and breadth of the county in a bid to deliver high-standard quality networks that will satisfy and delight the needs of ICT customers countrywide.

 The ICT sector, he states has been faced with several challenges both in the deployment and maintenance of the fiber cable infrastructure. He enumerates that, persistent fiber cuts have been the most significant challenging issue to deal with by the telecom companies in the industry in The Gambia today.

“The fiber cut is having a tremendous negative effect on quality-of-service delivery and customer experience. Besides these, other mandatory key performance indicators relative to industry standards such as availability, reliability, call set-up success rate, call congestion rate, call drop rate, as well as subscriber connectivity for both voice and data, are significantly impacted due to frequent fiber cut phenomenon,” he states.

 Amie Njie-Joof, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy reveals that the event is timely considering the ongoing review of the IC Act 2009, which intends to strengthen laws dealing with fiber cuts that are quite critical to ICT infrastructure.

She commended PURA for the successful hosting of the event, saying that it demonstrates PURA’s commitment to effectively regulating the ICT sector.

She discloses that: “The Government of the Gambia has spent significant resources on the national fiber infrastructure. Therefore, its upkeep and effective utilization should be everyone’s concern.”

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