After heavy reverses suffered by Odisha's telecom infrastructure due to extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani, the state government has set the ball rolling to create disaster resilient mobile infrastructure. Such disaster proof telecom infrastructure is planned for coastal zones with high vulnerability to recurring cyclones.
Fani pummeled Odisha's eastern coast near Puri on May 3. Back in October 2013, Phailin, another tropical storm of massive proportion had immensely devastated power and telecom infrastructure.
“Telecom falls under the jurisdiction of the central government. In the future, we are going to suggest them (Centre) for deployment of disaster resilient telecom infrastructure in the coastal parts of the state”, said a senior government official.
Sources close to the development said the state administration has taken up the matter with the central team which visited Odisha for assessing the damage wrought by the cyclone.
Since conventional mobile towers are easily assailed by high-speed, cyclonic winds, the Odisha government is batting for towers that can withstand gusty winds with speeds of 200 kilometers per hour (kmph) and beyond. Laying of optical fibre cables is another viable remedy to counter the effects of a severe storm.
Knowing Odisha's vulnerability to disastrous cyclones, Reliance Jio has installed Monopole towers with antennas mounted on the exterior. A monopole tower consists of a single tower or pole anchored to the ground. Such a tower is designed to withstand high velocity, cyclonic winds and are tested by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay. By contrast, the traditional lattice towers of truss towers- the four-legged freestanding framework towers are susceptible to gusty winds.
“The service disruption in the aftermath of the cyclone was because of damage caused to fibre infra and fibre cut at multiple locations triggered by felling of trees. As a measure of precaution, several BTS (Base Transceiver Stations) were lowered down in some of the low lying areas to escape the fury of winds”, an industry source said.
Fani cyclone has wrought large scale damage to telecommunications infrastructure in Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. A whopping 91 per cent of about 800 BTSes (Base Transceiver Stations) were damaged extensively in Puri where the cyclone had made a landfall on May 3.
In the cyclone's immediate aftermath only 35 per cent of BTS were in shape in Bhubaneswar region. In Cuttack district, barely 38 per cent were operational. The critical damage had crippled mobile and landline services in the Twin city region. While Bhubaneswar boasts of around 1800 towers, 1200 towers are installed in Cuttack district.
Barring Puri, telecom operators have largely restored their services in the other affected districts. The companies mobilized cell on wheels (CoW) and the state government supported the telcos by providing generators vital for running the services.
For providing telecom services in the remote locations affected by the cyclone, the department of telecommunications has permitted Intra-Circle Roaming (ICR) which allows users to use services of other network operators in Odisha.