Growing pains cut deep

April 1, 2012
Our circulation records show that we have just a few dozen subscribers who hail from Kenya. If you’re out there and you read this, please email me.

April, 2012 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

Our circulation records show that we have just a few dozen subscribers who hail from Kenya. If you’re out there and you read this, please email me. I’d like to hear your perspectives on the information provided herein.

Apparently, the country of Kenya has been stung in part by the network architecture it has chosen for its national fiber-optic infrastructure. Recent reporting from The Star’s Winfred Kagwe tells of the changes being proposed to the way the country’s fiber systems are designed and administered. A chief proponent of the proposed changes is Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary of Kenya’s ministry of information and communications.

The catalyst for these proposed changes is a string of fiber cuts, including a recent one that “nearly [cut] off the entire country for two days,” Kagwe reported. The changes being proposed at government levels aim to reduce the incidence of outages when cuts happen.

The country has not implemented a ring architecture for its fiber-optic cabling infrastructure, leaving it prone to widespread outages like those it experienced recently. Ndemo is quoted as saying, “Initially we thought everyone would behave, so we put all the cable in the one-line format; this is what is causing the outages.”

Kagwe reports that some are saying the financial loss suffered by the outages “runs into millions.”

When I first saw this report I forwarded it to Jim Hayes, president of The Fiber Optic Association. Jim toured Africa last spring, teaching fiber-optic design and installation best practices in several countries, including Kenya. One of Hayes’s meetings during the trip was with people from carrier Kenya Data Network. And Jim told me, “They told us they were getting two to three outages every day.”

The reasons for these outages include an abundance of construction (and therefore digging) in the region, cable theft, even sabotage. But also construction technique, in the form of burying cables too shallow. Hayes said he provided Kenyans with standards developed in South Africa intended to solve the problem. One element of those standards is to bury the cable 1.5 meters underground.

Please note the jaded sarcasm in my keyboard when I say that with the government about to step in, I’m sure the situation will improve quickly and dramatically.

And note the sincerity in my keyboard when I say the situation in Kenya has renewed my appreciation for the connectivity that I too often take for granted.

Chief Editor
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