Mobile networks: operators deplore having “no guarantee” in the event of a power cut, Orange “does not know how the network will behave”

Mobile networks: operators deplore having “no guarantee” in the event of a power outage, Orange “does not know how the network will behave”

As the end of the year approaches, the risks of power grid load shedding intensify and operators continue to sound the alarm bells.

The subject has been on the table since the beginning of the year with Russia’s entry into the war against Ukraine threatening electricity supplies. How will the mobile networks hold up in the event of a voluntary cut in certain areas of France? The answer is so far clear: they will not last. If the French Telecoms Federation has since been calling for mobile antennas to be included on the list of priority services still accessing current during the cuts planned by Enedis, this is not the case. This is enough to make operators fear direct consequences for their network and subscribers.

This is a subject on which Orange and the Telecoms Federation have been alerting the government since the beginning of 2022. We continue to work (together on the subject), but I fear that our fellow citizens will discover that the telecom networks depend on the ‘electricity” declared this week Christel Heydemann, CEO of Orange. She also explains that there are different types of sites: “: some are prioritized in the prevention plans that we implement. But some of our sites, in particular the tens of thousands of mobile sites, will not be prioritized. As well as a certain number of our critical sites” equipped with generators and batteries, which “can have an impact (on the network) at the national level“.

If certain measures are in place to take over, “we do not know how the network will behave” in the event of multiple load shedding, she says. “There could be situations where the light works in an apartment but the mobile (networks) do not work because the tower is in an area which is itself unloaded, and vice versa” she adds. Similarly, upgrading all the mobile sites so that they can withstand this type of cuts would represent an enormous project: “it would take at least five years” to equip all the antennas with batteries, explains Christel Heydemann.

Concerns for emergency numbers

In addition to not being able to communicate with friends, cutting off the telephone network in a specific area presents a much more serious risk: preventing the police, the Samu or the fire brigade from being called for help. This is particularly what the FFT and its president Michel Combot point to at the microphone of RMC.

We have been alerting the government for several months to the significant consequences of load shedding as envisaged. That is to say the stop by entire zone, for individuals and for antennas. These are important consequences in particular for the routing of emergency calls. We are working with the government to see what we can keep as cover, especially for 112.”

Despite ongoing negotiationsfor the time being no guarantee is provided by the executive concerning 112. Michel Combot explains that in areas where antennas exist nearby, it is possible to hang up on an antenna to call 112 “but in rural areas, for example, with the pylons spaced out, there is no possibility. Our request is to better target these power cuts“. He also recalls that 60,000 masts and antennas make up the mobile network in France and that even if the load shedding concerns a small area, these are “lots of equipment” who will be affected.

If the government wants to be reassuring using a metaphor considered rather abstruse of a “France in leopard spot” to define the areas affected by these power cuts, Michel Combot specifies that these will only be communicated to operators and users a few hours before their establishment. “Which obviously leaves very little time to prepare and if necessary try to optimize the networks to continue to route emergency calls.” he explains.

Source : Le Figaro, RMC

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Mobile networks: operators deplore having “no guarantee” in the event of a power cut, Orange “does not know how the network will behave”

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