Gone with the wind

Since I am part of the editorial team of SKEF News I have previously written an article about Hurricane Per, now I have had the privilege to write about Alfrida. The difference is that Alfrida I experienced for real while Per and I interacted at a distance. The night of the storm in numbers for me was four power outages, three large trees across the property, a destroyed roof on an outbuilding and four trees across the telephone line. The phone outage lasted three weeks.

Mobile networks are ideal in storms

According to the SMHI, gusty winds, this firm on the edge of the Stockholm area, could be expected once every ten to fifteen years. So I guess now we have a few years to prepare before it hits again. What can we do better for next time? For many years there have been discussions in Norrtälje to dig down the power lines to the ground —so far, everyone seems to agree that this is the most important thing to make mobile and fixed networks work for everyone. Mobile networks have a massive advantage over fixed networks. When fixed lines break to this extent, it takes time to repair. I still drive past telephone networks without poles and with broken cables. Mobile networks 1-0.

Telia was the only operator that chose not to answer our questions for my article in this issue, so instead, as a Telia subscriber, I will have to relate my own experiences during the storm. During the night of the storm itself, my mobile phone and mobile broadband were working, but the following day at 9 pm, the connection to the outside world disappeared, but the mobile still showed full coverage on 4G. I was without mobile phone service and mobile broadband for about 15 hours. The fixed network was down. On contacting Telia, I asked them to reroute my traffic via a working base station nearby, but that was not technically possible according to their support. Instead, they asked me to get in my car and drive to another location if I wanted to make a call. Telia and other operators could improve that kind of scenario for the next outage.

Problems with security alarms

Another thing I would like to highlight is the security alarms in Norrtälje municipality; these are based on Tele2’s network and have received some criticism as they did not work when the power went out. Part of the blame is on the company that bought the subscriptions. Tele2 has roaming cards that can reach all operators’ mobile networks with security alarms (except Net1). It would probably have helped some users anyway and probably cost society less than the efforts put in.

Otherwise, I understand that the level of preparedness offered by the mobile networks is what it is. But collaboration should constantly be improved. Authorities, utilities and our operators need to synchronise with each other more quickly and provide end customers with relevant situational information and better forecasts. And finally, for those who need a working solution 24/7, build a private radio network with sufficient backups; I know from experience that it works even when it’s windy and meteorologically uphill.