The Ugandan government has ordered an investigation into the national fiber optic project being developed by Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies, over claims of inflated prices and the use of inferior equipment.
In a report Tuesday, IT News Africa noted the country's president Yoweri Museveni had sent a letter to Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi that reportedly said he had "received intelligence information that Huawei used inferior cable type G652 instead of type G655".
The president claimed in the article that if true, the new fiber infrastructure would not be equipped to handle the kind of traffic it was designed for.
The letter was dated Apr. 16, according to a report Friday by New Vision. It cited experts which pointed out using the G652 cable would be insufficient for Uganda’s current needs and cannot provide for future growth. The G655 cable has a capacity of transmitting 40 gigabytes (GB) per second, noted the news site, whereas the G652 can only transmit 2.5 GB, upgradable to 10 GB.
News Vision noted the president also raised concerns that the cables were buried at a shallow depth of 0.9 meters, instead of the recommended standard cable burial depth of 1.2 meters--which left it more vulnerable to vandalism and security threats.
"Worst of all, is the overpricing by Huawei Technologies," Museveni added in the letter.
In the article, he said he had intelligence claiming "that there were efforts to steal money from the government by inflating the costs involved in digital migration for broadcasting". The president noted Rwanda spent had spent US$38 million on a similar project to cover a distance of 2,300 km to connect 35 sites, while Uganda would spend over US$62 million to cover 2,100 km.
David Dou, Huawei's public relations manager in Uganda, told News Vision in an e-mail the company's policies restricted him from sharing detailed information on customer contracts.
The Chinese firm is under scrutiny in markets such as the United States, which has been investigating claims that Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE are linked to the Chinese military and are involved in cross-border cyber espionage and attacks. Huawei has also been blocked from bidding for contracts for Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), over national security concerns.