Cyclone Amphan disrupts telecoms connectivity amid power outages in Bangladesh

  • Shamim Ahamed, Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-05-21 22:42:58 BdST


The Cyclone Amphan that cut a swathe through the coastal areas has disrupted telecommunication services amid power outages, mobile phone operators say.

As much as 30 percent of the network sites had no power until 11am on Thursday, according to the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh or AMTOB.

The storm barrelled through the coasts on Wednesday afternoon and ravaged vast swathes of land in India and Bangladesh overnight, knocking down trees, destroying homes, and damaging crop fields.  

More than 22 million customers, making up almost 60 percent of the country's consumers, were left without electricity as raging winds and heavy rains snapped power supply, according to officials.

About 12 million subscribers in the storm-hit areas were still without power as of Thursday afternoon.

AMTOB said in a statement that the storm damaged 50 to 60 percent of the network sites in Khulna, Barishal, Chattogram, Sylhet, Dhaka, Mymensingh, Rangpur and Rajshahi divisions. The telecom firms have around 35,000 mobile phone towers in Bangladesh.

Its Secretary General SM Farhad called for help from the power suppliers, especially the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board, to resume operations at the network sites. 

Muhammad Hasan, head of external communication at Grameenphone, said the cyclone caused “huge damage” to its infrastructures, mainly fibre optic cables and power connections in Khulna, Barishal, Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions.

The company was operating two-thirds of its network without commercial power for 12 hours.  

It was assessing the damage and working to gradually resume services in the affected areas, he added.

Shahed Alam, the chief corporate and regulatory officer at Robi, said the cyclone left around 2,500 of its network towers without power.

The company’s technology team was working to restore the connections, he said, calling for help from the power suppliers.

Ankit Sureka, head of corporate communications and sustainability at Banglalink, said they were trying to keep the network sites operational by using backup power generators, which have the capacity to run for eight to 10 hours.

Around 3,000 of its network sites were without power until 3pm on Thursday, he said and added they will be able to restore the sites once they get commercial power.

State-owned Teletalk’s Managing Director Md Shahab Uddin said around 2,000 of its network sites were down. The rural areas were facing more network problems than the towns, he added.