Ukraine’s mobile network is on the brink

In Ukraine, the mobile network is taking the brunt of attacks from Russia. Deprived of electricity, operators are turning to generators and new batteries to provide communications, essential in times of war.

The Russian offensive in Ukraine continues. Since October, Kremlin forces have stepped up attacks against the electrical network from the country. Last month, a fleet of Russian drones notably damaged the electrical infrastructure of the capital Kyiv. A few days later, missiles hit several areas of Ukraine. These repeated attacks caused a series of blackouts across the territory, depriving Ukrainians of power and heat.

Moscow-ordered tactical strikes also put pressure on the mobile phone network from Ukraine, reports the Wall Street Journal. Faced with the lack of energy, operators have installed generators to maintain energy for cell phone antennas, but the situation is becoming critical.

Read too: US admits carrying out cyberattacks against Russia in support of Ukraine

A mobile network with a power outage

Electricity generators ran out quickly. Same note on the side lithium batteries that come with the generators. Telecommunications then went in search of equipment to ensure the functioning of the network. This is the case of Lifecell, the 3rd largest mobile operator in Ukraine. The company says it needs 250 generators and 36,000 batteries to keep the mobile network running.

The three largest telecommunications companies in the country, namely Kyivstar, Lifecell and Vodafone, took the decision to replace the usual lead batteries by lithium backup batteries. This type of battery offers much faster recharging after a power outage, an event that has become common in Ukraine. Kyivstar managed to maintain its network with an additional 8,000 batteries. For its part, Vodafone has urgently added 5,000 batteries since the first Russian attacks.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Communications then contacted manufacturers to demand more batteries. Despite industry efforts, battery production will take another three to four months. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s mobile network remains heavily weakened by Kremlin attacks. After an offensive in November, 59% of base stations were out of order.

Ukrainian operators are also sufferinga severe shortage of labor. Assaulted by the Russian army, the state sent a large part of the Ukrainians to the front. After the November attack, Lifecell’s managing director took to the field to jumpstart a cell phone antenna using a generator.

an essential network

The mobile phone network is essential for the Ukrainian resistance against the invader. In the context of war, communications via smartphones are indeed essential, whether for military or civilians. A large part humanitarian operations are also organized via the mobile network.

Same observation from the side of military operations. As Sir Richard Barrons, former chief of command of British forces, explained to the New York Post, Internet access is profoundly important to the way war is fought. For example, a soldier can view and share “a tactical map of the battlefield » with his companions to identify the enemy’s position, underlines the general.

The mobile network also allows civilians to transmit important information to Volodymyr Zelensky’s government. Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, the state has encouraged citizens to post photos of Russian operations in daily appinitially reserved for official documents (driving license, identity card, etc.).

That’s why operators ask priority access to the electricity grid. Currently, authorities reserve electricity for hospitals and emergency services. It is these infrastructures that are entitled to the bulk of the food available in search of shortages.

Starlink to the rescue

Unsurprisingly, part of the telecommunications infrastructure was also destroyed by Russian missiles. The Russian army took care to destroy all antennas and cell towers located in the areas that fell under their control. In fact, a part of the network is down.

To overcome the difficulties registered by its mobile network, Ukraine can count on SpaceX. At the end of December, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedoro negotiated the delivery of 10,000 new Starlink satellite dishes. Despite mixed signals, Elon Musk continues to support Ukraine, explains Mykhailo Fedoro:

“Musk tells us he will continue to support Ukraine. When we had a blackout, I contacted him the same day. He reacted right away and took action.”.

Several European states will participate in financing this new batch of antennas, which have become essential at a time when Russia is stepping up its offensives in Ukrainian telecommunications.


wall street newspaper

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