Several European telecom companies told Reuters that the energy crisis could lead to network outages in the coming winter.
Russia’s gas supply has been cut off. Putin blocked one of the main European pipelines after the European Union imposed sanctions for invading Ukraine. The supply of energy dropped, prices rose and telecom companies are worried. Multiple organizations told Reuters that the energy crisis could lead to network outages in the coming winter.
The risk varies by country, but as large parts of Europe are connected to the same power grid, the majority of the European Union has a problem. Most member states consider internet providers to be critical infrastructure. This means that internet providers are one of the last parties to be cut off in the event of a power shortage. European telecom companies are concerned nevertheless.
Four anonymous telecom executives told Reuters that the antennas of several European countries have insufficient backup systems to overcome prolonged power outages. The European Union runs on nearly 500,000 telecom towers. According to Reuters, most have a backup battery that lasts for 30 minutes. After that, it’s done.
The big question is whether it will come down to backup power. The European Union is currently importing gas from alternative sources to compensate for the lack of Russian gas. So far, no Western-European homes or businesses have had to be shut down, let alone providers. The chances of the grid going down are small, though no one seems to know exactly how small.
France and Sweden
Telecom companies in France and Sweden are playing it safe. Two insiders told Reuters that French electricity grid operator Enedis has prepared a contingency plan for the worst-case scenario. To protect hospitals, police departments and the government in the event of power outages, parts of France — including telecom antennas — could be shut down for periods of two hours.
French telecom lobby organization FTT criticized the plan on behalf of France’s largest providers. The organization called on Enedis to protect telecom antennas. According to insiders, the issue is currently being discussed by Enedis, FTT and the French government.
In Sweden, telecom regulator PTS is working with providers and government agencies to minimize risks. One of the talking points is the distribution of electricity in emergencies. In addition, a spokesperson revealed that the regulator is financing additional backup facilities in mobile transmission towers.