Internet, mobile signals, ATMs hit by Bangladesh blackout

Internet, mobile signals, ATMs hit by Bangladesh blackout

Many saw their mobile phones lose signal, internet users went offline, people could not get money from ATMs, and shopping centres counted huge losses during the nationwide power outage yesterday.

Telephonic communication, fixed and wireless internet, and data services experienced huge disruptions due to the blackout that began at 11:30am. The power outage triggering from Bangladesh-India power substation at Bheramara had a domino effect resulting in the worst blackout in seven years.

From yesterday evening, base stations of mobile phone carriers started shutting down with their batteries running out of juice.

Usually when there is no power, carriers use battery and generators to keep their networking equipment going.

"If the blackout prolongs the whole network might collapse," said TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh yesterday evening.

There are more than 22,000 base stations in the country, according to Kabir.

Since yesterday evening, a number of base stations shut down in different places across the country, making many people unreachable via mobile phones, according to officials of the carriers.

An official of a mobile phone operator said it would be impossible to continue to provide people with their service if power was not restored last night.

However, the core equipment and data centres of the carriers were safe, the official said.

Sayed Talat Kamal, head of external communications of Grameenphone, yesterday night said their network in some parts of the country could suffer disruptions if power outage continued.

"We have been running our operations on secondary generators and back-up batteries since 11:30am," he said.

Robi, another leading carrier, said less than 5 per cent of its network was experiencing outage and its teams were working to have it sorted out.

Faisal Hyder, chief executive officer of Qubee, a WiMax internet service provider, said they were forced to shut down a number of base stations as their battery backups ran out.

Almas Kabir, senior vice-president of Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh, said the small ISPs suffered the most as they usually do not have backups.

Kabir, also the CEO of Metrolink, a data service provider, said they had to shut down their services at a number of areas as mobile phones carriers who support them with infrastructure had their own network offline.

Superstores in the capital were also affected by the power failure.

Meena Bazar, a chain store, had to spend an additional Tk 40,000 an hour for running generators to preserve perishable items on the shelf, said its Chief Operating Officer Shaheen Khan.

Meena Bazar, which runs 18 outlets in three divisional cities, had to shut four outlets in the capital by 7:00pm, he said. Rahimafrooz Superstores Ltd that operates Agora also bore additional costs for running generators.

"We will have to spend an additional Tk 520,000 for all our 13 outlets if electricity supply is not restored by tomorrow morning," said Habibul Islam, area manager of Rahimafrooz Superstores.

Superstores have to keep generators running especially to preserve perishable items such as meat, fish and dairy products, said Md Zakir Hossain, general secretary of Bangladesh Supermarket Owners' Association.

He said the superstores would have to suffer significant losses if electricity supply was not restored by yesterday night.

Most of the 5,500 ATMs across the country became inoperative four to five hours after the power outage, causing sufferings to many ATM users.

Abdus Sobhan, security guard at Jamuna Bank's ATM booth at Lalbagh, said, "The electricity backup to run the ATMs exhausted around four hours after the electricity outage in the morning. Since then, I told all clients that the ATM machine had stopped working".

Some 20 to 25 people had returned empty handed since late afternoon, Sobhan said in the evening.

Bankers, who look after the ATM network, said except for those with generators, most ATMs were shut since the late afternoon due to exhaustion of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) backup.

Bankers said ATMs see a rise in the number of clients at the beginning of every month, as many draw their monthly salaries at this time.

"Our UPS provides power backup for four hours. Our ATMs were on for that time since the power outage. Now almost all our ATMs are inoperative," Abul Kashem Mohammad Shirin, deputy managing director of the DBBL, told The Daily Star in the evening.

With 2,700 ATM booths, the DBBL has the largest ATM network in the country.

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