KOLKATA: Mobile and broadband connectivity is unlikely to return to normal levels before early next week in West Bengal and Kolkata circles, which have borne the brunt of the extensive damage to telco networks and fibre infrastructure caused by the super cyclone Amphan. The situation has been exacerbated by prolonged power supply disruptions, lasting over 48 hours in some locations, that have jolted restoration of mobile connectivity.
Droves of mobile users in Kolkata and rest of West Bengal remained without connectivity for over 40 hours as power outages and fibre cuts continued to scupper early restoration of mobile and tower networks. Those who managed to get access to home broadband experienced dismal speeds.
The situation in Odisha though is rapidly returning to normal as damage to network infrastructure is comparatively less than West Bengal.
Rajan Mathews, director general at Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said power supply disruption and fibre cuts are the principal reasons “for many of our base stations remaining non-operational, (though) our teams are working round the clock to restore operational capability to these BTSs in the impacted regions”.
The COAI represents Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea.
Mathews added that intra-circle roaming (ICR) pacts between operators “had proved ineffective” as the super cyclone Amphan had equally stung the networks of all telecom operators in the impacted regions.
“ ICR works when at least one or two operators have coverage in the area, and telcos were prepared to enable ICR even before the cyclone hit, but since the impact on all operators was equal, ICR has remained ineffective,” said Mathews. He added that “there are spots where all operators have lost connectivity due to fibre cuts and power outages”.
A senior Bharti Airtel executive said “mobile network operations were almost near normal in Odisha, although restoration of normal mobile and broadband connectivity would take longer in Kolkata and rest of West Bengal as the super cyclone had caused extensive damage to telecom infrastructure in the state,” adding that prolonged power cuts were delaying restoration efforts.
Another senior executive of a Big 3 telco said though telco teams are working on a war-footing to restore mobile connectivity, normalcy was unlikely to return before next week as nearly 50% of telecom towers in West Bengal are still not operational due to a combination of equipment damage and power outages. This apart, he said, there were extensive fibre cuts in key locations which was delaying restoration work.
TAIPA director General T R Dua said around 8500 towers in West Bengal are fully operational, but these are running on diesel gensets. “ There is a critical need for restoration of power because after every 8 hours, a DG set needs rest, which may cause network disruption,” he warned.
At press time , Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio did not reply to ET’s queries.