Europe Braces For Mobile Network Blackouts

Russia’s decision to halt gas supplies via Europe’s key supply route in the wake of the Ukraine conflict has increased the chances of power shortages. In France, the situation is made worse by several nuclear power plants shutting down for maintenance. 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 half a million telecom towers and most of them have battery backups that last around 30 minutes to run the mobile antennas. […] Telecom gear makers Nokia and Ericsson are working with mobile operators to mitigate the impact of a power shortage. The European telecom operators must review their networks to reduce extra power usage and modernize their equipment by using more power efficient radio designs, the four telecom executives said. To save power, telecom companies are using software to optimize traffic flow, make towers “sleep” when not in use and switch off different spectrum bands. The telecom operators are also working with national governments to check if plans are in place to maintain critical services.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom has 33,000 mobile radio sites (towers) and its mobile emergency power systems can only support a small number of them at the same time, a company spokesperson said. Deutsche Telekom will use mobile emergency power systems which mainly rely on diesel in the event of prolonged power failures, it said. France has about 62,000 mobile towers, and the industry will not be able to equip all antennas with new batteries, the FFT’s president Liza Bellulo said. Accustomed to uninterrupted power supply for decades, European countries usually do not have generators backing up power for longer durations.

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