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Europe could be hit by mobile network outages this winter

Europe map with network points

Power cuts or energy rationing have the possibility of downing mobile networks across Europe this winter, some telecoms industry execs have warned.

There have been plenty of headlines warning of rising prices for heating homes this winter following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent energy crisis – however it could also mean mobile networks start going down across Europe, according to some unnamed telecoms execs speaking to Reuters.

Their claim is there are not enough back-up systems in many European countries to mitigate power cuts, which raises the prospect of mobile phone outages as tower batteries run out of juice.

In France, there is apparently a plan suggested by electricity firm Enedis to manage any shortages which includes power cuts of up to two hours in a worst case scenario. The black-outs would affect specific parts of the country on a rotating basis, and would exclude hospitals, police and government facilities. Its position seems to be that it is up to local authorities to add telecoms operators infrastructure to the list of priority customers.

“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),” Reuters quotes a French finance ministry official with knowledge of the matter.

The sources also say telcos in Sweden and Germany are flagging up the risk any potential energy shortages or rationing would have on networks, while the Italian telecoms lobby said it wants the mobile network to be exempt from any power outages, claims the report.

Part of the problem seems to be there isn’t so much energy storage in Europe as would be ideal when met with sudden shortages : “We are a bit spoiled maybe in large parts of Europe where electricity is pretty stable and good,” a telecom industry executive told Reuters. “The investments in the energy storage area have maybe been less than in some other countries.”

Apparently there is some technical tinkering being worked on that might mitigate some of the risk – we’re told Ericsson and Nokia are in talks with European telcos on that matter. The unnamed sources said that the telcos need to review their networks to reduce extra power usage and modernise their equipment by using more power efficient radio designs – fair enough, but that’s hardly something you can bootstrap together overnight.

Potential energy shortages and rising prices have been pontificated about almost constantly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in March. Any potential shut down of telecoms infrastructure due to lack of power is one area where it will all start to feel very real indeed.

 

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