Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has ordered telecom operators to restore 50% of their sites impacted by the cyclone Amphan by Saturday evening, however lack of power supply remains a key challenge in restoring connectivity. In order to ensure connectivity in West Bengal & Kolkata, telecom secretary Anshu Prakash is holding daily briefings with all the telecom Service Providers (TSP) and Infrastructure Providers (IP), Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), Cellular Operator’s Association of India (COAI) and senior regional BSNL officials.
Super cyclonic storm Amphan is the strongest tropical cyclone to strike eastern India in recent times. Coastal areas in Odisha—as well as Kolkata, Hoogly, Howrah, East Midnapur, North, and South 24 Parganas in West Bengal were among the worst hit regions. The DoT has been taking stock of all the sites where the towers are down as well as damage to optical fibre cable (OFC) which comprise a majority of the equipment damage at present. According to industry sources, the current problems in ensuring that base telecom sites function efficiently is the unavailability of continuous power supply. The diesel generator sets being used to run many sites at present can only run 8 hours at a stretch.
“ The heavy storm has dislocated the antennae on many towers. Intra Circle roaming (ICR) will be effective only when infra such as fibre and connectivity is restored. Operators had prepared to enable ICR even before the cyclone hit, but because the impact on all operators is equal, ICR remains ineffective. There are spots where all operators have lost connectivity due to fibre cuts and power outages in those areas," said Rajan S Mathew, Director General, COAI.
COAI has already stated that telcos are coordinating with original equipment manufacturers for their support and ensuring the availability of key spare parts and important equipment like generators, antennas, cables, microwave, etc. Key locations for diesel for speedy and priority access to fuel have been identified and telcos have put in a request to power companies for electric supply on priority through DoT and the concerned Ministries. The TSPs and IPs have also managed to restore connectivity to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport.
“ It is worth mentioning the proactive role played by DoT at this critical time for ensuring no hurdles for the telecom industry in these tough situations but at the same time. We need support from DoT of getting power to be restored at the earliest," said TR Dua, director General, TAIPA. The Ips have arranged for Cell on Wheels (CoWs) sites which are ready for deployment as per requirement across districts, added Dua.
War rooms have been set up at identified locations in the States of Orissa and West Bengal (Kolkata) that are expected to be impacted by the cyclone. These teams will interface directly with the local Telecom Enforcement and Resource Monitoring (TERM) cells and State Disaster Management personnel.