Thursday, March 23, 2023

Prolonged power outages could lead to ‘connectivity blackouts’, warn telecom companies

The telecom industry has warned the Shehbaz Sharif government that if prolonged power outages continued, this could lead to connectivity failures across the country as the telecom companies can’t run on backup options in face of costly fuel, and stringent conditions on battery imports.

High fuel costs and strict conditions on the import of batteries are making it tough for the IT enterprises to meet their power requirements amid long, unplanned power outages, leading cellular mobile operators (CMOS) Jazz, Telenor, PTCL, and Ufone wrote to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

“Despite having backup power available in the form of generators and batteries, cellular operators are finding it almost impossible to cope with the quantum of these power outages that are beyond our dimensioned backup capacity,” the cellular network operators said in the letter written to draw the telecom regulator’s attention.

The CMOS highlighted that the prolonged power cuts are directly impeding IT operations and are expected to further severely constrain the cellular network operators’ ability to meet the existing quality of service obligations as well as their network rollout obligations under the new license conditions.

The operators also lamented that rapidly increasing petroleum prices and stringent conditions on battery imports were “putting extra constraints on the provision of generator backup for their base transceiver station (BTS) sites.”

Recently, the State Bank of Pakistan imposed a 100% cash margin restriction on network/backup equipment imports, including batteries.

The situation had “severely dented” the CMOs’ ability to roll out more sites to meet the licensed quality of service requirements, said the operators, warning the PTA that if the power outages and other issues were not addressed promptly, they would be “constrained to notify force majeure situation under special circumstances”.

A senior CMO official told media outlet that costly fuel had put a financial burden on the telecom industry as they are running transmission towers and back-end equipment on either generators or backup batteries.

Telenor Pakistan CEO Irfan Wahab Khan believes people of Pakistan would suffer the greatest loss due to looming telecom crisis because they would be pushed into darkness at a time when the world was moving fast into the digital economy.

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