| People try to walk back home as traffic comes to a standstill in Mumbai on Wednesday. (Reuters)
New Delhi, July 27: Please keep your conversation short.
The message from mobile phone operators flashed as subscribers in rain-drenched Mumbai suffered from bad to no connectivity.
The plea for brevity came amid claims and counterclaims that most operators in the flooded city made about the robustness of their network.
Reliance Infocomm claimed it was the only network active in almost 90 per cent of Mumbai, but said the call congestion plaguing residents was a result of too many calls at the same time.
“While such heavy rainfall does not directly impact our service, power shutdowns by utility providers and waterlogging around standby diesel generator sets would affect the BTS (base terminal station) towers in select locations, in turn impacting our services in pockets,” a company spokesperson said.
“We are confident that as soon as water levels recede, our networks will be fully available.”
Normally, operators load only 80 per cent of the BTS capacity. But during critical events and at special occasions like New Year, they have to cope with overloads.
“The operators are prepared for events like New Year. But they were not expected to meet sudden events like the rain” that has flooded Mumbai, said N.K. Goyal, adviser, Motorola.
Interconnection was another problem. The operators could not connect with the landline switch as they were submerged in water.
The lack of power, essential to run mobile switching centres and mobile base stations, added to the misery. Moreover, the generator sets could not be transported because of the water logging and the lack of transport.
The worst-affected network was Orange and the only one to admit it.
“We have one message. Please keep your conversation short so that everyone can communicate their wellbeing to their near and dear. There was problem in 100 of our BTS out of the 800 in the city,” said Harit Nagpal, chief operating officer of Orange.
“We could send generator sets to 60 out the 100 affected but 40 were beyond reach. But we are on it and would energise the rest by today,” Nagpal added.
The areas where the network has been badly affected in Mumbai include Dahisar, Dombivili, Kalyan and Chembur.
AirTel claimed its network was running smoothly and providing much-needed connectivity to Mumbai residents. As a special gesture, the company announced that all local calls made by its post-paid customers till 6 pm on Thursday will be free.
AirTel claimed its robust mobile infrastructure brings “unmatched connectivity on a congestion free network, with superior voice clarity”. It also said “the state-of-the-art mobile infrastructure deployed by the company has superior processors to handle calls, reduce network congestion, enable better call completion rate and increase efficiency”.
Another operator, BPL, claimed its network was “functioning 100 per cent”. Sanjay Prabhu, a senior marketing executive, said there were no problems. But “our subscribers could not get connected to other operators’ network”.