MP Melissa Gumbs Questions MinTEATT on Telecommunications Network Status in GEBE Crisis

PHILIPSBURG – Party for Progress member of Parliament submitted questions last Thursday, 27 June 2024, to the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunications & Traffic, Mrs. Grisha Heyliger-Marten regarding the status of the country’s telecommunications network in light of the current loadshedding actions being taken by NV GEBE as a response to decreased energy production impacting the company.

“Power outages and surges impact every system that relies on electricity,” Gumbs stated in a media release. “The Telem and Flow networks are no exception. I am concerned about the impact that these last eight months of power outages and, more recently, heavy loadshedding have had on the site generators, the sites themselves and the overall mobile and broadband infrastructure of each provider.”

Gumbs noted that she had already seen a slow-down with mobile data as the outages became more frequent, with the Flow LTE network taking more than five minutes to reboot once the power had been shut off. In the last week, she has received complaints from TelCell customers who cannot make or sustain calls on their mobile phone. This doesn’t surprise Gumbs, as she has warned in Parliament about the risk of connected systems failing together.

“In my Sunday livestream, I speak about cascading issues happening as a result of GEBE’s power outages,” Gumbs continued. “Just as our home appliances, such as fridges, freezers, TVs, game consoles etc are at risk of damage due to power outages and surges, the same is true of our telecommunication networks and the equipment needed to power them. The generators meant to power that infrastructure are also at risk, as they’re normally meant for emergency situations like a hurricane or the odd power failure here and there. Structural power failures are unsustainable for even the most sophisticated network protections.”

In her questions, Gumbs asked Minister Heyliger-Marten to determine and share the status of both Telem and Flow’s mobile and broadband networks, with special attention to their carrying capacity and their overall health, considering GEBE’s fluctuating electricity services. She asked Heyliger-Marten if there has been any damage noted by either company regarding their network equipment or damage to the generator sources at various network sites. 

“I also asked the Minister what the preparedness levels of both companies’ networks are as we race towards the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season,” Gumbs shared. “After Hurricane Irma, and indeed after any weather event, there’s also some infrastructure sharing that goes on, all of which puts a strain on the network that is overburdened at the time. But with both networks still recovering from Irma and Maria and the impact of failures of international infrastructure such as SMPR-1, we have a unique scenario of fragile networks operating in the middle of a serious energy crisis. That’s a risk that the country cannot bear right now.”

Source: Press Release