Several parts of Kerala, which is in the grip of what has been called its worst monsoon in almost a century, have been disconnected from the outside world due to a failure in mobile connectivity. At least 324 people have died in rain-related incidents in the state since May 29.
Areas like Ernakulam, Thrissur, Alappuzha, Idukki and Kottayam have borne the brunt of this breakdown in mobile connectivity, which also has the potential to hamper rescue operations. Reports suggested that even control rooms established by the government were not functioning in places like Chalakudy, in Kerala’s Thrissur district. Chalakuddy is one of the worst-affected regions, and the National Disaster Response Force and the Navy have been deployed there to help people.
Industry sources estimate it could take up to three days for connectivity to be restored totally in all parts of Kerala.
Industry officials said the problem is severe in central Kerala, where most of these flood-ravaged districts are located, due to several factors such as physical damage and, more importantly, power shortage.
Many service providers use a combination of their own towers and those of the infrastructure companies to provide coverage to their users. According to one official, these towers and the network link operations are backed up by either batteries or diesel generator sets.
Whenever there is a power failure, either the batteries or generators kick in immediately. However, this cannot go on forever. “Even though they have high capacity, batteries will run out of charge if there is a sustained power cut,” an industry official said.
Another problem is that of fuel supply. “In some districts like Ernakulam and Thrissur, we faced issues with sourcing diesel for the generators,” the official added. This is mainly because fuel stations have run out of stock as roads have been cut off due to the flooding. “But since morning, there have been significant improvements.”
These officials said much will now depend on the speed with which the state can restore power supply.
Meanwhile, most service providers like BSNL and Jio have extended complimentary offers to customers to ensure that their connections are not disconnected either because of non-payment of bills or as they could not recharge prepaid connections.
While Vodafone has given customers talk time of up to Rs 30 as well as 1GB of mobile data, Reliance Jio has extended a package of unlimited calls and data for seven days for the entire state.