Power cuts this winter: expect mobile network outages

A previously unthinkable situation, smartphone users may unexpectedly lose all mobile phone signal this winter in parts of Europe when blackouts or power rationing affect parts of the network.

Russia’s drying up of its gas supplies to Europe, following Western sanctions against it over its involvement in the Ukraine conflict, has raised fears of deficiencies voltaic. In France, the situation is complicated to close thelarge part of the nuclear population for maintenance work or corrosion problems even if RTE, the manager of the high-voltage line network, decides that the risk of outages will only occur in extreme situations and can be avoided by slightly lowering the national consumption.

Telecom officials fear a harsh winter in Europe will test infrastructure, forcing governments and businesses to act.

There is no back-up system in case of power failure

Many European countries currently do not have enough emergency generator system to deal with widespread power outages, four telecom officials said, which could cause mobile network outages.

The countries of the European Union, especially the Francethe Sweden and Germanytry to ensure that TELECOMMUNICATIONS will be preserved even when power cuts end up draining the backup batteries installed in the thousands of mobile antennas spread across their territory.

Europe has almost half a million telecom towers and most are equipped with standby generators to last about half an hour.

Two hours break

A plan drawn up by Enedis, manager of the electricity distribution network, envisages cutting power for up to two hours in the worst-case scenario, said two sources familiar with the matter.

According to a principle ofshedding turned“Mentioned on September 1 by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, such cuts will only affect certain areas of the country, in an alternative way and essential services such as hospitals, police and administrations will be saved, said the origins.

Inability to preserve mobile antennas

The government, telecom operators and EDF subsidiary Enedis discussed the issue in the summer, the government and the sources said.

The French Telecoms Federation (FFT), which mainly represents operators Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR (Altice), pointed the finger at Enedis for its inability to protect mobile antennas from possible power cuts.

Enedis declined to comment on the content of the discussions with the authorities.

In a statement sent to Reuters, Enedis said that all its regular customers were treated a fair footing in case of rare breakdowns.

He determined that he will be able to isolate certain parts of the network to serve priority customers such as hospitals, sensitive industrial areas or the army, but it is up to local authorities to add telecom infrastructure on the list of priority customers. .

“We can improve our knowledge on the subject this winter, but it will not be easy. isolate a mobile antenna“from the rest of the network,” said a finance ministry official familiar with the discussions.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Finance declined to comment on the discussions between Enedis, the telecom operators and the government.

Same problem in Sweden, Germany and Italy

Telecommunications companies in Sweden and Germany have also raised concerns about potential power outages with their authorities, several people familiar with the matter said.

Sweden’s regulator, PTS, is working with operators and other administrations to find solutions, he said. Discussions included what would happen if electricity was rationed.

PTS is funding the purchase of portable fuel stations and mobile base stations in case of prolonged power outages, the authority’s spokesman said.

The body representing Italy’s telecommunications companies told Reuters it wanted the mobile network to be excluded from any power cuts or rationing measures and that it intended to raise the issue with the incoming government’s so-called will be formed after last Sunday’s election.

Power cuts increase the risk of electronic components being damaged if they are subjected to sudden interruptions, said Massimo Sarmi, the head of this pressure group.

Reduce the impact of cuts

Network equipment makers Nokia and Ericsson are working with mobile operators to find solutions to mitigate the impact of any power cuts, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Both groups declined to comment on the matter.

European operators should review the operation of their networks by limiting unnecessary power consumption and modernize their equipment through more energy-efficient designs, four sector officials said. .

To save electricity, telecom companies use software that optimizes traffic, puts antennas to sleep when not in use and turns off different frequency bands, people familiar with the matter said.

The battery option

Operators are also working with governments at national level to ensure plans are in place to maintain essential services.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom has 33,000 mobile towers and its emergency power generation systems can only cover a small part of them at the same time, a spokesperson for the group said.

The German operator will turn to diesel-powered mobile generators in the event of prolonged power outages, he said.

France has about 62,000 mobile antennas and the sector will not be able to equip all of them with new batteries, said Liza Bellulo, president of FFT.

“Maybe we’re a bit complacent in most of Europe where the electricity is pretty stable and good,” a telecommunications executive said. “Investment in energy storage will be less than in other countries.”

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