France’s telecommunications providers hoped to avoid power outages this winter, but are now readying themselves for the worst.

As Europe sinks deeper into a historic energy crisis, the French government has warned of rolling blackouts as the last resort. Telecommunications providers will not get the exemptions they sought.

Michel Combot, managing director of the French Telecoms Federation, told Politico that it’s no longer about whether telecoms will be secured, but about how they can keep network outages to a minimum.

In the case of rolling blackouts, Combot added, telecoms networks will be severed in the impacted regions — that’s a fact. Currently, network operators are working with the government on communication and contingency plans.

Four French telco providers consume 1 percent of all power

Combot also said that the entire country is unprepared and unaccustomed to this occurrence. The director does not blame the government, but believes it is unaware of the ramifications of disrupting telecommunications networks. 

If electricity is disconnected, hospitals and defence facilities are among the “priority clients” under French legislation. Fixed telecom and mobile networks are not. The communication infrastructure of the four major providers — Orange, Bouygues Telecom, SFR and Free — accounts for 1 percent of the total power usage in France.

A period of adjustment for all

In a study issued in mid-September, French electrical transmission operator RTE stated that the country, typically an exporter of electricity, is in a particularly bad condition this year.

In addition to Russia reducing Europe’s gas supply, more than half of France’s nuclear facilities are undergoing maintenance. Furthermore, summertime droughts have proven that reliance on hydroelectric electricity is a dicey bet.

France is still likely to escape rolling blackouts. “Programmed cuts — even in a worst-case scenario, which is unlikely — can be avoided if everyone takes action together, if energy savings extend to all sectors of the French economy”, said Xavier Piechaczyk, the president of RTE’s managing board.

The telecom sector’s tone, however worrying, demonstrates how companies are attempting to adjust to the energy problem as most of the country plunges into unfamiliar territory this winter.