Wednesday, 13 January 2021 07:12

Battery backup 'remains essential for telecommunications resilience'


Research firm Venture Insights points out that in south-east Australia's 2019-20 bushfires, about 88% of the telecommunications outages were caused by loss of power outages and only 1% were due to direct fire damage, which implies that better power backups could significantly reduce outages.

After more than 1000 mobile towers and other facilities were disabled as a result of bushfires last summer, the Commonwealth Government announced a $37.1m funding package to strengthen telco resilience, including $10m for the Mobile Blackspot Program and battery backup solutions.

Repairs to damaged power lines can take time, especially if many poles must be replaced. So battery backup systems are important for maintaining communications in times of disaster.

Lead-acid batteries are an established part of small-scale commercial back-up energy solutions. According to Venture Insights head of research David Kennedy, "More advanced battery technologies, including lithium-ion are now primed for rapid expansion – far beyond what legacy battery technologies could have hoped to achieve. The future batteries such as zinc-air and lithium-air will help telcos become more resilient in the event of an emergency at a fraction of the current cost.

"Further, in the medium term, 5G small cells will present a new challenge with respect to power backup, as there will be a drastic increase in the number of locations where power will be required. Addressing this will raise issues around cost, deployment speed and visual pollution."

NBN services also need battery backup, Venture Insights points out.

Power outages at customer premises affect NBN services. FTTP services can be protected with the optional backup battery, but HFC, FTTN and FTTC connections rely on the power supply to the premises. Furthermore, most connected equipment – routers, switches, IP phones, etc – requires a backup power supply if they are to be usable during power outages.

Furthermore, the rollout of 5G small cells will drastically increase the number of sites that will need backup power, and that raises cost and visual amenity issues.

"The bushfires, upcoming 5G small cells and backup requirements for NBN services mean that batteries will remain in focus in the foreseeable future", added Kennedy.

Image: 80 trading 24 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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