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Cellular, broadband coverage devastated in West Bengal following Cyclone Amphan: Reports

A telecom tower

Cellular connectivity has suffered immensely as Cyclone Amphan knocked many cell towers offline, the Indian Express reported. On the night of May 20, the cyclone made landfall, and a large chunk of West Bengal’s internet connectivity was knocked offline. While some users in urban centres like Kolkata reported getting limited connectivity again, underconnected parts of the state like the Sundarbans have unreachable as the cyclone knocked out the few phone lines that existed, Scroll reported. In Kolkata, huge parts of which are still waterlogged, TV and broadband providers are struggling to fix submerged cables, with one operator telling an India Broadband Forum user that repairs cannot be expected for at least two days.

Dyn Research reported that over 150 networks went down in India during the cyclone, most of which were associated with Airtel and Alliance Broadband, a major fixed line provider in West Bengal. While nine networks seem to be back online, Dyn Research, which tracks restorations as well, has not recorded other networks coming back online; this indicates that a large portion of telecommunications in the region is still down.

MediaNama reached out to Airtel, Vodafone–Idea and Reliance Jio this morning to understand the extent of damage to networks, and for an idea on when they might be restored. While they haven’t responded, the Cellular Operators Association of India provided us with a statement (below) by director general Rajan Mathews, saying that they were coordinating with state government officials and the telecom department to make sure that networks are up and running. The statement, though provided to us today, seems to have been prepared before the cyclone hit.

COAI Statement:
The Telecom industry, despite the tough time of lockdown in the country, is in the forefront to take adequate measures to ensure the stable and continued connectivity in the wake of super cyclone, “Amphan”. As part of the disaster management steps, a pre-planning meeting with DoT has been held. The industry has implemented steps to ensure the Business Continuity Planning (BCP).

Telcos are coordinating with OEMs 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.

TSPs and IP1s are also liaisoning with local TERM cells and holding regular and emergency meetings with State Secretaries and Disaster Management authorities. The companies have requested for issuing of priority passes for the field staff to manage the on-ground situation. Telcos have already inked Intra Circle Roaming pact among themselves ensuring the uninterrupted telecom and broadband connectivity.

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The 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 TERM cells and State Disaster Management personnel. They have kept response teams in the field for repairing any damages caused and for deployment of Cell on wheels CoWs at a short notice.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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