According to Reuters now Europe must brace itself for mobile network blackouts.
Once unthinkable mobile phones could go dark across Europe this winter if power outages or energy rationing knock out parts of the region’s mobile networks.
“Telecoms industry officials say they fear a severe winter will put Europe’s telecoms infrastructure to the test forcing companies and governments to try to mitigate the impact.
Currently there are not enough back-up systems in many European countries to handle widespread power cuts four telecoms executives said raising the prospect of mobile phone outages.
European Union countries including France Sweden and Germany are trying to ensure communications can continue even if power cuts end up exhausting back-up batteries installed on the thousands of cellular antennas spread across their territory.”
Europe has nearly 500 000 telecom towers and the majority of them have battery backups that last about 30 minutes to power the mobile antennas.
In France a plan proposed by electricity distributor Enedis includes potential power outages of up to two hours in the worst-case scenario according to two sources familiar with the situation. The general blackouts would affect only a portion of the country at a time. According to the sources essential services such as hospitals police and government will be unaffected.
According to the French government and the sources the French government telecom operators and Enedis a unit of state-controlled utility EDF (EDF.PA) held talks on the issue over the summer.
The French Federation of Telecoms (FFT) a lobbying group that represents Orange (ORAN.PA) Bouygues Telecom (BOUY.PA) and Altice’s SFR singled out Enedis for failing to exempt antennas from power outages. Enedis declined to comment on the content of the talks with the government but said in a statement to Reuters that in the event of an outage all regular customers would be treated equally. It claimed that it could isolate sections of the network to supply priority customers such as hospitals critical industrial installations and the military but that it was up to local governments to add telecom operators’ infrastructure to the list of priority customers.
A French finance ministry official declined to comment on the talks with Enedis the telecoms groups and the government but just stated: “Maybe we’ll improve our knowledge on the matter by this winter but it’s not easy to isolate a mobile antenna (from the rest of the network).”
According to several sources familiar with the situation telecoms in Sweden and Germany have also expressed concerns to their governments about potential electricity shortages. According to the Swedish telecom regulator PTS it is working with telecom operators and other government agencies to find solutions. To handle longer power outages PTS is financing the purchase of transportable fuel stations and mobile base stations that connect to mobile phones.
The Italian telecoms lobby is raising the issue with Italy’s new government if the mobile network is excluded from any power outage or energy-saving shutdown. According to its lobby chief Massimo Sarmi power outages increase the likelihood of electronic components failing when subjected to abrupt interruptions.
Three sources familiar with the situation said that telecom equipment makers Nokia (NOKIA.HE) and Ericsson (ERICb.ST) are collaborating with mobile operators to mitigate the impact of a power outage.
According to the four telecom executives European telecom operators must review their networks to reduce extra power usage and modernize their equipment by using more power-efficient radio designs.
To save power telecom companies are using software to optimise traffic flow make towers “sleep” when not in use and switch off different spectrum bands the sources familiar with the matter said.
According to a company spokesperson Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE) has 33 000 mobile radio sites (towers) in Germany and its mobile emergency power systems can only support a limited number of them at the same time. In the event of prolonged power outages it said that it will use mobile emergency power systems that primarily rely on diesel.
France has approximately 62 000 mobile towers and the industry will be unable to equip all antennas with new batteries according to FFT president Liza Bellulo.
European countries accustomed to uninterrupted power supply for decades do not have generators to back up power for longer periods of time.
Klaus Schwab warns of a new crisis with more significant economic and social implications than Covid 19. (simonmercieca.com)