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What is behind a major breakdown in Internet networks and telephones in Monaco?

A large-scale outage occurred in the afternoon of Tuesday, November 29, when a major breakdown causing a cut in Internet networks and telephone lines was observed shortly before 3 p.m.

The Prince’s Government made a point of meeting Monaco Telecom by visiting the Monegasque operator’s headquarters on Thursday 1 December. The discussions mainly focused on immediate news of the large-scale outage.

Most concerning was that the operators of vital importance (OIV) of the Principality that were reliant on fixed telephone lines that remained out of operation for hours had to organize themselves internally to ensure continuity of emergency services. All was steered by a government crisis unit at the Ministry of State.

What happened?

Disseminated on social media, and reported widely, Martin Peronnet CEO of Monaco Telecom explained: “significant maintenance of the energy equipment of one of Monaco Telecom’s main data centers was planned, the emergency generator broke down. From 2:34 p.m., internet connections, mobile and fixed communications were affected.”

“Everything gradually recovered from 3:15 p.m. when we were able to restore power, except for the telecom switch, which had a bad experience of the outage and refused to restart. It was 8:45 p.m. when we were able to completely resolve this crisis, ”

“We are never confronted with this kind of breakdown. Everything is done to avoid this. The last energy incident of this magnitude also dates from 1997. There, all the protections jumped one by one. We will think about how to build more effective protection, additional safeguards.”

Emergency Services Impacted

Impacted among others were emergency services including Public Security, the firefighters of Monaco, the Princess Grace Hospital Center and the cardio-thoracic centre. These vital entities, unreachable from the outside, were then the priority of the cell set up to manage the crisis. Continuity of care was assured at the CHPG, as well as at the Monaco cardiothoracic center.

The care equipment, in particular in the emergency room, in intensive care and in cardiology, reportedly was not impacted nor were the medical records and the internal telephone lines. Only Fixed telephony communications with the outside no longer worked. But this can still be problematic in the event of a vital emergency.

The situation reportedly gradually returned to normal around 6 p.m. before, fortunately, the start of the night shift. What was experienced was unprecedented, with the potential for difficulties for the families of hospitalized patients. It is reported that no delay in care was listed, and responsiveness of all services was assured.

Also impacted in the commercial sectors of the Principality were companies of all sizes: reportedly from take-out restaurants no longer able to receive telephone calls from customers to the major hotels in the Principality.

The visit to Monaco Telecom by the Minister of State was an opportunity to better understand, in the light of the first technical analyses, the causes of this incident linked to a fault in the power supply of an older generation switch. 

“This case should raise questions about the general reliability of the generators that may be in operation in the Principality, at a time when we may be using them more regularly in our electricity supply,” indicated the Minister of ‘State.

A More Reliable Future with Fibre Optics

Another hot topic discussed on the visit of the Minister of State to Monaco Telecom: the switch to fibre for telephony and the Internet, replacing the copper network. At a time when the Principality is accelerating in the deployment of fibre, which is more economical and more reliable, it is clear that 800 individuals, 2,500 small and medium-sized businesses and many government departments are still connected to this network, older generation, very energy-intensive.

On the side of the public authorities and Monaco Telecom, the awareness is unanimous to list the needs and mobilize the energy to better address the conditions of this change in technology which has become inevitable.

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