Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cellphone companies in a tizzy

Cellphone companies in a tizzy

Anil Kumar Sastry and Sharath S. Srivatsa

They are unable to provide back-up power for all towers

— Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

bad SIGNAL: A cellphone tower on a building in Bangalore.

BANGALORE: Puzzling over the poor connectivity when you speak into your cellphone recently?

The current crisis on the power and diesel front has had unexpected consequences in affecting the functioning of base transmission stations, more familiar as mobile towers to the people.

Long power cuts and diesel shortage have stumped private mobile service providers, affecting the quality of service.

In fact, mobile phone users in Bangalore, parts of Mysore, Davangere, Chitradurga and Belgaum are experiencing frustratingly poor connectivity because of the inability of the companies to keep their towers working.

Cellphone users have been facing non-availability of network, congestion in the network, call drops and low quality audio ever since long hours of power cuts started.
Companies helpless

“Companies are helpless, as power cuts range from six to 16 hours a day and we have constantly been recording the power shutdown,” said an Airtel spokesperson. The base transmission stations can run on battery for nearly two hours, he said.

Consequently, service providers have been forced to use diesel generator (DG) sets to keep the network live, and non-availability of diesel in required quantity has affected the operations.

The companies cannot install DG sets on wayside micro towers and those erected on private property.

Thus, the traffic of these towers has to be diverted to others that are working either through regular power supply or through DG sets, resulting in decreased quality of service. The spokesperson hoped the situation could return to normalcy following oil companies’ assurance over diesel supply, as telecom is an essential service. However, he added, that there was no need for panic.

An engineer familiar with mobile site power management said many sites that were not revenue earners and had fewer customers did not have DG sets for backup, and customers were experiencing problems.

“Whenever a live site faces power problems, we try to enhance the signal range of a neighbouring site to keep the network running,” he added.

Mobile operators use generator sets varying between 7.5 kV and 25 kV, and their usage depends on the load of the site.

“If many operators share the same site, then a 25 kV generator is used to meet the load requirement. On an average, a 7.5 kV set consumes around two litres of diesel an hour while a 25 kV set requires around four litres an hour,” the engineer said.
BSNL cautious

Meanwhile, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., (BSNL) SAID it haD not been facing any problem. Chief General Manager, Karnataka Circle, T.S. Kuppuswamy, without elaborating on the measures, told The Hindu that BSNL had taken several steps to face the situation.

“We have the largest network. We are not only providing mobile services, but also we have the largest basic telephone network and have faced grimmer situations earlier,” Mr. Kuppuswamy added.


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