Energy crisis: After the light, the phone cuts planned this winter

Energy crisis: After the light, the phone cuts planned this winter

Telephone operators are concerned about potential network outages this winter if power outages are needed. Not all European countries are in the same boat.

A situation once inconceivable, smartphone users could unexpectedly lose all mobile phone signal this winter in parts of Europe if blackouts or electricity rationing affect parts of the network. Russia’s depletion of its gas shipments to Europe, following Western sanctions against it linked to the conflict in Ukraine, has raised fears of electricity shortages.

In France, the situation is complicated by the closure of a large part of the nuclear park due to maintenance work or corrosion problems, although RTE, the manager of the high-voltage line network, judges that the risk of outage would not only occur in extreme situations and could be avoided by slightly lowering national consumption. Telecom officials fear harsh winter in Europe will strain infrastructureforcing public authorities and companies to take action.

62,000 branches in France

Many European countries currently do not have enough backup power systems to cope with widespread power outages, four telecoms officials said, which could cause mobile network outages. The countries of the European Union, in particular France, Sweden and Germany, are working to ensure that telecommunications are maintained even in the event that power cuts deplete the backup batteries installed in thousands of mobile antennas spread across their territory. Europe has nearly half a million telecom towers, and most are equipped with standby generators that last around half an hour.

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In France, a plan drawn up by Enedis, manager of the electricity distribution network, foresees power outages of up to two hours in the worst case scenariosaid two sources familiar with the matter. Under a principle of “rotating load shedding” mentioned on September 1 by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, such cuts would only affect certain parts of the country, in turn, and essential services such as hospitals, the police and administrations would be spared. ., the sources said.

Will telecommunications be a priority?

The government, telecoms operators and EDF subsidiary Enedis discussed the issue over the summer, the government and the sources said. The French Federation of Telecommunications (FFT), which notably represents the operators Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR (Altice), pointed the finger at Enedis for its inability to protect mobile antennas from possible power outages. Enedis declined to comment on the content of the discussions with authorities. In a statement sent to Reuters, Enedis said all of its regular clients are treated the same in case of exceptional outages. Specifies that it is capable of isolating certain parts of the network to supply priority customers such as hospitals, sensitive industrial sites or the military but that it is up to the local authorities to add telecommunications infrastructure to the list of priority clients. “Perhaps we will improve our knowledge of the subject for this winter, but it is not easy to isolate a mobile antenna”, from the rest of the network, said a finance ministry official familiar with the discussions. A spokesperson for the finance ministry declined to comment on the discussions between Enedis, the telecoms operators and the government.

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telecommunications companies in Sweden and Germany They also raised concerns about potential power outages with their respective authorities, multiple sources familiar with the matter said. Sweden’s regulator PTS is working with operators and other administrations to find solutions, he said. Discussions include what will happen if electricity is rationed. PTS finances the purchase of portable fuel stations and mobile base stations in the event of prolonged power outages, a spokesperson for the authority said.

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The organization that represents companies in the telecommunications sector in Italy he told Reuters he wanted the mobile network to be excluded from any power cuts or rationing measures and that he intended to raise the issue with the future government to be formed after last Sunday’s elections. Power outages increase the risk of electronic components failing if they are subjected to sudden outages, said Massimo Sarmi, head of this lobby group.

European operators must review the operation of their networks by limiting unnecessary electricity consumption and modernizing their equipment through more energy-efficient designs, said the four heads of the sector. To save electricity, telcos use software that optimizes traffic, puts antennas to sleep when not in use and turns off different frequency bands, the people familiar with the matter said. Operators are also working with governments at the country level to ensure plans are in place to maintain essential services.

Diesel generators?

In GermanyDeutsche Telekom has 33,000 mobile towers and its emergency power generation systems can only cover a small part of them simultaneously, a spokesman for the group said. The German operator will turn to mobile generators that run mainly on diesel in case of prolonged power outages, he said.

France has some 62,000 mobile antennas and the sector will not be able to equip all of them with new batteries, said Liza Bellulo, president of the FFT. “We may have rested a bit on our laurels in much of Europe where electricity is pretty stable and good”a telecommunications official said. “Investment in energy storage may have been lower than in other countries.”

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