Police in India have arrested nine people for stealing cell tower equipment worth 60 lakh (~$72,000).

As reported by The Hindu, South Zone Task Force Hyderabad, along with Kacheguda and Adibatla Police, arrested the gang for the thefts across Telangana state.

Indian cell tower
– Getty Images

The gang stole a variety of equipment from various sites, including Remote Radio Units (RRUs), Remote Radio Heads (RRHs), Base Band Units (BBUs), and cell tower cable wires of Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio respective networks.

Banavath Nagaraju, 23, Maloth Nagesh, 24, Chukkolu Shiva, 22, Dilshad Malik, 24, Chand Malik, 29, Shaharyan Malik, 20, Sohail Malik, 20, Neerudu Chaitanya, 33 and Lavoori Ravi Naik, 27, have been named as those arrested.

"A case has been filed under Section 379 (punishment for theft) of the Indian Penal Code by the Kacheguda Police. Further investigation will be taken up by the respective police stations where cases against the individuals were filed,” said S. Rashmi Perumal, DCP Task Force.

Following an investigation into the criminal activity at the sites, the police found that Nagaraju and Nagesh both worked as tower riggers at Airtel Networks in Hyderabad.

The duo are accused of stealing said equipment from their working sites along with their assistant engineer Ashok, who further sold it to Shiva. It was then reportedly sold to customers through a computer scrap business run by Dilshad, Chand, Shaharyan, and Sohail, officials explained.

There have been 11 cases filed between January 11, 2024, and March 25 across Kacheguda, Khairatabad, SR Nagar, Madhura Nagar, Meerpet, Vanasthalipuram, Nagole, Hayathnagar, Balanagar, and Shamshabad concerning theft of equipment related to Airtel, reported the publication.

Jio has also been impacted by the thefts, with Chaitanya, a tower rigger at the company, accused of stealing RRHs from working sites Adibatla and BDL Bhanur, along with ex-worker-turned auto driver Naik.

The police have seized 13 Airtel 4G RRUs, one Airtel 5G RRU, eight Jio 4G RRH, 600 meters of cable wire, and 10 cell phones from the gang.

Earlier this month in the US, four men were arrested for stealing cables at cell tower sites, while posing as T-Mobile contractors.

Cable theft has long been an issue for the telecoms industry, given the value of copper and other metals.

Last month, vandals in Jasper, Alabama, were accused of stealing a whole 200-foot tower.

In January, suspected copper thieves toppled a 488-foot rod cell tower in Oklahoma, which caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.

Numerous other incidents have been reported in the UK, South Africa, Ghana, and Botswana.