Electronic communications are the backbone of the EU’s digital society. Article 13a of the EU’s electronic communications Framework directive asks EU Member States to ensure the security and resilience of public electronic communications networks and services. As part of the implementation of Article 13a, National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in the EU collect reports about incidents with a significant impact on the electronic communications networks and services. Yearly, ENISA publishes an annual report which summarizes these incident reports and provides an aggregate analysis of major outages. As can be seen in the ENISA annual report, power cuts are a dominant cause of severe network and service outages in the EU’s electronic communications sector. In the report “Power Supply Dependencies in the Electronic Communications Sector”, we study these incidents in more detail and we make recommendations to NRAs and electronic communications service providers and to some extent also to actors in the energy sector as well as civil protection authorities. Our recommendations are aimed at improving the electronic communications sector’s ability to withstand and act efficiently after power cuts.
The diagram below shows the average impact per cause per reported incident from 2012. The impact is calculated as affected user connections times the duration of the incidents in hours.
We found that:
- A majority of EU Member States have implemented more general resilience policies through legislation, whereas a minority of the Member States have implemented policies that are directly linked to resilience against power cuts.
- A majority of the NRAs do not and may even lack suitable input to perform risk assessments that include power cuts. It is also noted that the national use of state funding and publicprivate partnerships to address power cut resilience are exceptions rather than the norm within the EU.
- Resilience against power cuts is lower in access networks closer to customers than for network elements that carry traffic for a large number of customers. Mobile networks tend to be more vulnerable to power cuts compared to fixed networks.
- A majority of NRAs believe that current protection levels are not adequate and they would like to see power cut resilience to become a market differentiating factor for network and providers.
- A review of incident reports from 2011 and 2012 shows that a significant number of power cuts led to more severe service disruptions than what would have been the case had existing protection measures worked as intended.