Extreme Weather Events: Reasons and Solutions for Telecom Outages

The recent thunderstorms and floods in Europe led to massive power and telecommunications outages, which meant that many people had no chance to call for help or to check on their loved ones. Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria were all impacted by such outages - and with Climate Change causing an increasing amount of extreme weather events, we will experience such challenges more frequently.

Three reasons why telco infrastructure fails during an extreme event

Current ICT and telecommunications infrastructure are not made to function during thunderstorms or floods. While systems are designed to be resilient and reliable, they cannot cope with such extreme scenarios and will stop working due to three main vulnerabilities in the transmission towers.

First, they need power. If the power is out, towers are fitted with emergency generators that will suffice for two to three days in areas with a high number of subscribers. In smaller areas, these generators will only last two to three hours. After that, the tower will stop functioning.

Second, they are connected with copper or fibre cables that may be cut when for instance a mudslide destroys a street. If the impacted site is not easily accessible it could take days for service technicians to reach the site and repair the infrastructure.

Third, in a worst-case scenario, the entire tower may be impacted and destroyed. If this happens to multiple towers the only solution is to provide a mobile backup, which has high cost implications, and will also lead to longer downtimes in the impacted area.

Alternative Solutions

Natural disasters cannot be prevented, and realistically, building infrastructure resilient in even extreme scenarios would be too costly.

Riskwolf believes that insurance solutions for ISPs and telecommunications providers will play a pivotal role in transferring emerging and fast-growing risks such as telco outages. Using the Riskwolf full-stack risk platform, insurers can create and distribute parametric coverage for connectivity issues and downtimes.

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