telecoms want to avoid a dark scenario

How to ensure that in the event of a voluntary power outage (load shedding) the telecom networks continue to operate? The operator of the electricity network (RTE) may well think that a “general mobilization” will make it possible to escape load shedding this winter, the question causes cold sweats among operators and even ministerial offices. Because, without electricity, no more relay antennas and, therefore, no more mobile telephony.

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However, today, nearly 90% of emergency calls are made from a mobile. Nobody wants to relive the tragedy of the breakdown, on June 2, 2021, of the emergency numbers managed by Orange: six people died because they could not reach the emergency services. Identified for weeks, the subject was mentioned, on September 13, during a first meeting between Jean-Noël Barrot, the new Minister Delegate in charge of the digital transition and telecommunications, and the operators. A new meeting is scheduled for early October to find the solution and reassure everyone.

“We have no technical guarantee from Enedis”

For months, telecoms have been asking to appear on the list of “priority customers” exempt from load shedding as set by the decree of July 5, 1990, in the same way as hospitals or industrial installations essential to national defence. Operators would also like to be technically fixed. “To date, we have no technical guarantee from Enedis that allows us to ensure that a relay antenna would not be cut during load shedding”explains Liza Bellulo, general secretary of Bouygues Telecom.

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Enedis, the EDF subsidiary responsible for managing the electricity distribution network, claims to be “capable of technically isolating the medium voltage network sections supplying these priority customers in the event of exceptional outages” and remember that “installations of telecom operators can be defined by the prefectures as being to be excluded” load shedding.

But Enedis does not want to bear sole responsibility for a possible cut. “An excerpt from the Orsec G5 guide on the restoration and emergency supply of electricity, electronic communications, water, gas, hydrocarbon networks reminds us that the user whose activity cannot withstand a cut or interruption of a network must equip itself with its own palliative means”underlines the network manager.

Clearly, telecom operators must install generators or batteries capable of taking over from the electrical network at the foot of their antennas. “Some major sites already have generators or microbatteries, but this is unthinkable for the 60,000 mobile phone towers in France”retorts SFR, who says he is thinking diligently about the subject.

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