In many companies nowadays, mobile telephones and Internet connections have replaced almost all the functions of the old fixed networks. Moreover, some organisations have even dispensed with them completely, considering them obsolete, meaning that the smooth running of their communications systems relies on the infrastructures of the electricity and telecommunications companies. This situation of dependence frequently exposes their intrinsic vulnerability when there are failures in the power system, with consequent–and sometimes serious–losses for companies and the general public alike.
Failures in the electricity networks are inevitable. Recurrent incidents in different countries around the world demonstrate that there are multiple single points of failure. The reasons are several: a broken cable on a pylon due to a tree branch falling in a storm; electrical and solar storms; network overloads; extreme cold or heat waves; substation failures; or dilapidated cables. (See article: The Greatest Power Cuts in History.) When this happens, the power supply is interrupted and, consequently, Internet connections and telecommunications may also fail, unless the companies in these sectors have backup infrastructures, a circumstance which, unfortunately, is not the norm.
In the scenario described above, when Internet and mobile telephone use was not as widespread and the only requirement was an alternative to the fixed networks, the communications systems were not contingent on the electricity supply, as they were distributed in such a way that, if the network failed in one area, the incidence did not affect their operability. Today, however, we may find that we cannot even contact the technical and/or emergency services for systems essential to society and the world of business if our mobile operator leaves us without service. For example, when the hydraulic pumps used in floods, the fire alarm systems, etc. become inoperative. Why have telecommunications become so dependent? Above all, what might be the solutions to this global problem?
Growth in the sector of mobile telephones has been so fast that many operators, in a race to gain clients and offer them maximum reception by expanding their networks, have given precedence to the development of new technologies rather than investing in robust, secure infrastructures with backup systems to deal with failures in the power supply (standby networks). Likewise, many copper lines have yet to be replaced by fibre optic cabling, even though they are much more robust for connections between hubs than the pylons located, for instance, in the countryside. Moreover, some operators rent spaces to other operators to save costs, jeopardising the service they provide to their users if their supplier has problems.
When the telecom regulations were devised, the evolution we have experienced could not have been predicted, but the current situation means modifications are required to minimise the impact of future power supply failures. Both the electricity and telecommunications companies have to be willing to invest in (fault-tolerant) standby networks and, when these failures occur, they should be invisible to the user. In other words, the systems need to be prepared to detect failures with the electrical current or data passing to another line in such a way that users are unaffected by the problem.
One solution to ensure backup without having to establish new physical networks is to obtain emergency power through generator sets. At Inmesol we manufacture equipment designed to provide power in all circumstances where a backup supply may be necessary: for server rooms, for communication towers installed in locations where there is no electricity network (in this case, two generator sets operate alternately as a power source), or as a standby supply source. We also manufacture mobile generator sets, which can be used in specific areas affected by a breakdown. Inmesol has a very extensive range of generator sets and our technical team is always happy to provide advice to find the best solution for your company.
This article was inspired by information published in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.