YOU DON’T REALISE HOW ESSENTIAL MOBILE PHONE AND INTERNET CONNECTIVITY ARE UNTIL YOU LOSE THEM
When the media was full of news about potential rationing of electricity supplies last winter, I did some research into purchasing a home generator which could be charged from solar cells. Ultimately, I didn’t buy it due to a shortage of storage space in my flat, then as it turned out, the National Grid was able to cope with demand due to a mild winter.
Today I felt concern that I should have bought one because I have never before lost all means of communication with the world.
Both my phone and internet went down: I didn’t think at the time, but my internet provider uses the same mast network as my phone provider. I presume that our closest mast ran out of battery power, but I am shocked to the point that I will certainly look at alternative networks which hopefully have better back up systems in the event that the power from the National Grid is lost for an extended period of time.
Saturday 17th June 2023 at about 1.30pm, we had a power cut. Nothing new where I live and I was happy to read a book.
I needed to go on-line to find out the meaning of some initials and was staggered to find none of the browsers worked although I appeared to be connected to the internet.
I tried calling my son and initially there was a ringing tone and it went to voicemail, but when I tried a second time, there was no ring tone and I got the message, “emergency calls only”.
At that point, I freely admit that I got scared and started packing bags of shopping, torches, batteries, etc. to go to Brighton to visit my son.
I changed my SIM card from my smart phone to my old Nokia in the hope that it would work but I still got the same “emergency calls only” message.
As it happened, because I had changed phones, no network meant it didn’t automatically update to the correct time so I missed the bus.
I would have caught the next one, but thankfully, power was restored, half an hour later the internet and phone network were restored and my panic subsided.
As a result of those two or three hours without means of communication etc., I think it is time to seriously consider keeping back-up supplies, but I don’t think there is a communication alternative unless I start to keep pigeons.
I have looked at the locations for the cell phone masts and there seems to be only one within about ten miles, but I will check it out in case there are smaller relay masts not on the map I looked at.
My research came up with the following answers regarding power supply to the masts.
Most cell towers have some form of backup power. When they lose power, they resort to batteries. If the batteries run out, the towers draw power from generators, which rely on fuel. These methods can provide power for days or longer, depending on whether the generators can be refueled.
The following is from a news source in the US: “Providers invest significant resources to strengthen and harden networks so that they are able to maintain service during emergencies,” said a statement from CTIA, the wireless industry trade group.
Just a few months ago, the British government tested their emergency system to warn the British public in the event of a national disaster. They found faults with their system but vowed to remedy these problems.
I now see the largest flaw in their plan: if the cell phone network crashes, the government will have no means to broadcast a warning to the British people.
The following is advice provided by Ofcom: If you have a cordless phone, you could consider keeping a traditional corded phone in your house and keep it connected to the phone socket (or stored in a handy place). This will offer the greatest chance of being able to make calls during a power cut.
Additionally, if you don’t already have one, consider having a mobile phone as a back-up (and remember to keep it charged and use it occasionally to make sure it is still working).
Phone calls over broadband
Over the next few years, it will become more common for phone calls to be carried over broadband, and this will eventually replace traditional landline call services. Whether you have a corded or cordless landline telephone, broadband-based call services need mains power to operate.
Ofcom rules mean providers must take all necessary measures to ensure their customers can call the emergency services during a power cut. So these companies will need to put additional protections in place as they move to new broadband-based call technology.
The following is from a BBC news report 12th December 2021: Power cuts caused by Storm Arwen have highlighted a potentially lethal problem in the home phone network’s digital transformation. Traditional landlines are being phased out in favour of broadband-enabled phones reliant on electricity. As hundreds of thousands of households across northern England lost power, people in remote areas without a mobile reception were left unable to call for help.
From Reuters, 21st September 2022. FRANCE
In France, a plan put forward by electricity distributor Enedis, includes potential power cuts of up to two hours in a worst case scenario, two sources familiar with the matter said.
The general black-outs would affect only parts of the country on a rotating basis. Essential services such as hospitals, police and government will not be impacted, the sources said.
The French government, telecoms operators and Enedis, a unit of state-controlled utility EDF (EDF.PA), have held talks on the issue over the summer, the French government and the sources said.
The French Federation of Telecoms (FFT), a lobby group representing Orange (ORAN.PA), Bouygues Telecom (BOUY.PA) and Altice’s SFR, put the spotlight on Enedis for being unable to exempt antennas from the power cuts.
Enedis declined to comment on the content of the talks held with the government on the matter.
Enedis said in a statement to Reuters all regular customers were treated on an equal footing in the event of exceptional outages.
It said it was able to isolate sections of the network to supply priority customers, such as hospitals, key industrial installations and the military and that it was 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),” said a French finance ministry official with knowledge of the talks.
I believe the news report from France, shows that governments are well aware of the problems they have allowed to develop by encouraging over-reliance on mobile phone networks.
I still suggest pigeons should beware, we will all be capturing them and training them to deliver messages for us.
BT 61130 Big Button 200 Corded Telephone,White,22 x 18 x 11.4 centimetres