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Pakistan telcos warn of shutting down mobile phone and Internet services as power crisis worsens

Pakistan telecom operators warn of shutting down internet services amid power outages.(Photo for representation)

With Pakistan’s power crisis going from bad to worse, the telecom companies have warned the government that they may have to shut down mobile phone and Internet services as they cannot afford to give backup power support due to the high cost of fuel and curbs on battery imports.

“Despite having backup power available in the form of generators and batteries, cellular operators are finding it almost impossible to cope with the quantum of these power outages that are beyond our dimensioned backup capacity,” leading cellular mobile operators (CMOS) Jazz, Telenor, PTCL and Ufone said in a letter to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

The operators also informed the PTA that if the power outages and other issues were not addressed, they would be “constrained to notify a force majeure situation under special circumstances,” according to a report in leading Pakistan daily Dawn.

They also lamented that rapidly increasing fuel prices were placing extra constraints on the provision of generator backup for their base transceiver station sites.

Dawn cited Jazz CEO Aamir Ibrahim as saying, “the backup systems used by telecom companies were not designed for prolonged power outages. “To ensure consistent improvement in service quality and expand broadband services, a policy and regulatory environment that enable mobile operators to remain financially healthy are critical,” he said.

The situation had made it a “massive challenge” for the operators to maintain network availability, the letter stated.

It also emphasised that the situation had worsened after the State Bank of Pakistan had imposed a 100 per cent cash margin restriction on the import of network/backup equipment, including batteries.

The telecom industry has asked PTA to help the companies to keep providing essential telecom services to the people.

If the current situation persisted, there could be blackouts at certain towers, resulting in the disruption of telephony and data services in that area, the executive said: “And this can happen randomly for different companies at different places.”

Taking to Twitter, the National Information Technology Board (NIBT) wrote: “Telecom operators in Pakistan have warned about shutting down mobile and internet services due to long hours of power outages nationwide, as the interruption is causing issues and hindrance in their operations.”