Kigali city authorities are looking to incorporate utility ducts on all new roads to minimise damage to fibre cables and other utilities during road construction.
The ducts would also reduce the need to dig newly constructed roads to install utilities.
Internet service providers said there is a need to protect their infrastructure. They blamed construction companies for damaging fibre-optic cables in various parts of the country, which cost them huge financial losses in repairs and loss of revenue from service interruption.
Kigali city planners now say the solution to this problem is to install utility ducts on new roads or those being expanded.
“They will enable installation of cables without having to dig up the road,” said Alphone Nkurunziza, an engineer at Kigali City.
The cost of constructing the ducts could be covered by utility providers.
Speaking at an Internet Governance Forum last week, Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KTRN), said it had spent Rwf1 billion ($1.1 million) to repair damage to its cables while damage from natural disasters and theft cost an additional Rwf399 million ($468,054) to repair between 2014 and 2017.
“Road contractors are the major culprits in damaging cables. Some of them are in a hurry to meet their deadlines that they don’t pay attention to existing utility infrastructures such as water, electricity and fibre,” said Charles Gahungu, the chief technology officer at KTRN.
Earlier this year, fibre network operator and Internet provider Liquid Telecom raised the alarm on cable damage made by road contractors.
But while the damage to fibre cables costs operators enormous amounts in repairs, they have also been criticised for not mapping the location of their cables.
Mr Gahungu agrees that they partly share the blame but argued that it was difficult to map the location of old infrastructure.
“Some of the water pipes were installed as far back as 30 years ago so it is hard to know exactly where they are located,” said Mr Gahungu.
He added that companies still do not map the location of their cables because their operations had not been digitised.
“We need a database with details on the location of the infrastructure, depth in soil and other useful details,” said Dr Nkurunziza.
He said Kigali city would design a new utility infrastructure map that should be available by April next year.
Data from the Ministry of ICT shows that more than 4,500 kilometres of fibre optic cable have been rolled out across the country.
Experts on urbanisation say damage to fibre cables are a result of lack of plans. The Kigali city master plan is still relatively new and its implementation will take time.
Mr Gahungu told Rwanda Today that some progress has been made in reducing damage to fibre cables as a result of negotiations between all players.
He cited ongoing construction on the road from Rwandex to Remera Prince House where ISPs, road developers and the Ministry of Infrastructure co-operated.