Did you know that copper theft is so high in South Africa the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) keeps a monthly barometer detailing its cost to the nation? And what does that cost amount to? About R5 billion per annum. Yes, billion.

The latest figures on the SACCI web site are from their 27 November 2014 press release, where they report that the Copper Theft Barometer level increased to R13.2 million in October from R13 million in September and R12 million in August 2014. They report that this was the fifth monthly increase in 2014 and is 43% higher than a year ago – almost double. They see this as a worrying signal that copper theft may be on the increase over the short to medium term.

We have to acknowledge that copper theft makes fixed line solutions less and less attractive with every passing month.

Along with speed, bandwidth and cost-efficiency, telecoms must deliver, above all, uninterrupted uptime 24/7/365. A constant struggle with network uptime can easily shut a small business down. Few companies can sustain constant interruptions to productivity and interference with their ability to deliver to customers on time; fewer still can sustain power surges which damage network equipment.

This makes wireless increasingly attractive as a business proposition for South African businesses. Not only is wireless always on, it is secure, and it offers guaranteed speed and bandwidth. Compared to a fixed line infrastructure, wireless is the king of uninterrupted uptime, especially when it runs over licenced spectrum. Unlike copper and fibre, wireless can be quickly deployed – often in a matter of mere days. And never overlook the fact that if anything does goes wrong with a wireless infrastructure, it can be quickly – and usually cheaply – resolved because wireless is so much easier to troubleshoot.

But copper theft is not just about technology – there is a more invidious cost attached. To quote SACCI: “The further implication is that municipal finances are placed under severe strain to fight copper theft and replace stolen copper cables, particularly as the broader replacement cost is normally multiples of the value of the actual material that was stolen.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that wireless is not just a better option, it is an option that is good for the economy.