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DoT mulls using drones, balloons for 5G connectivity in emergencies

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is considering using drones and tethered balloons to reinstate 5G connectivity during emergencies and natural disasters, especially when conventional telecom services face significant disruptions.

An official said that the DoT will likely conduct trials in the coming months to assess the effectiveness of this endeavour. The department intends to conclude the trials and reach a final decision by June next year.

The official said, “There is a plan to provide a temporary 5G network using tethered balloons or drones to provide mobile coverage during emergencies and disasters.” This would help provide 5G connectivity during natural disasters or emergencies such as accidents at remote locations, the official added.

The government views employing drones and balloons for telecom connectivity as a significantly more convenient alternative during disasters compared to setting up new mobile sites. According to industry experts, in such circumstances, telecom companies can leverage their current spectrum for providing connectivity, while power supply needs can be addressed through backup or solar technologies.

Disaster management unit
The DoT disaster management unit is responsible for guaranteeing telecom connectivity during and after disasters. In addition to addressing connectivity requirements, the department also sends early warning messages and implements automated priority call routing during such events, the report said.

In the event of any disaster, DoT collaborates with all stakeholders, including telecom operators, to swiftly restore connectivity. This may involve establishing temporary mobile networks or repairing damaged ones. As part of its disaster management strategies, the government has already enforced infrastructure sharing among telecom companies. This enables users to connect to any operational tower in disaster-affected regions, regardless of its ownership, the report stated.

Power supply disruption
A primary cause of network disruptions during natural disasters is the absence of power supply. Therefore, the government has recommended that operators maintain backup power systems. Regulations specify that to address disruptions in mobile services caused by damaged base tower stations, telecom companies must maintain a designated minimum inventory of portable base stations and satellite equipment for connectivity restoration. Business Standard

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