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How rolling blackouts in Ukraine affect the Internet

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How rolling blackouts in Ukraine affect the Internet

How rolling blackouts in Ukraine affect the Internet

02.12.2022

Internet

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Emergency and scheduled power outages — residents of many Ukrainian cities have to adapt to such conditions after the massive attacks by the invaders on energy facilities that began in October 2022. Under such circumstances, there is often no mobile communication and Internet, as well as fixed Internet. According to the NetBlocks organization, Ukraine has already recorded a drop in Internet traffic to 67% of the norm.

We decided to understand the causes of such common problems and share relevant recommendations for solving them.

Why the Internet Disappears During Rolling Power Blackouts


Both the operation of mobile network equipment and the operation of Internet equipment are directly dependent on the power supply. That is why during blackouts in the regions of Ukraine, neither mobile towers nor fixed Internet providers may work.

It is worth noting here that the architecture of the built networks is important for the work of the provider. If it is based on a fiber-optic cable, then if there is power in the provider's server room, when the light is turned off in your apartment or private house, the Internet does not disappear. But if there is no light on the nodal equipment, then subscribers are left without the Internet, even if they have electricity at that time.

Unlike the option discussed above, when connecting subscribers with a copper cable (via Ethernet technology), it is important to ensure uninterrupted power supply throughout the entire technological network, i.e. also on the site in the house with the equipment placed. This requires the purchase of redundant power supplies, which incurs additional costs for providers. In addition, even with the desire and funds in the current situation, this is hampered by the shortage of the UPSs themselves.

It is not surprising that today in villages or small towns, where Internet was later installed based on PON technology, the network remains available, while in large cities where Ethernet technology is used, there is no Internet.

What measures are providers taking to stabilize the Internet connection


Equipment from all categories of providers suffers from frequent blackouts. But operators who use Ethernet technology find it more difficult: they have to additionally purchase and install batteries, diesel generators and other backup power sources at all intermediate nodes with active equipment.

Installing batteries on server hardware helps to partially solve the problem in the absence of a centralized power supply: a backup source is able to provide a signal for 4-6 hours of operation. But after this time, the batteries need to be charged (it takes about 8-10 hours to reach full capacity). Therefore, during power outages for longer periods, it is necessary to switch to generators, but they also require refueling if there is no power for more than a day. However, there is a nuance here: in the event of a long-term power outage or in the event of a blackout at night, the provider's employees do not have the opportunity to get to the facility to connect and refuel the generator due to current restrictions on movement during the curfew.

Therefore, a promising direction in which operators should move in the current situation is the transition from the technology of active optical networks to the technology of passive ones. Thanks to the introduction of the latter, Internet networks require less power supply, as a result they are less dependent on blackout, therefore they are more reliable. In particular, this concerns the modern PON technology, on the basis of which services in Kharkiv are provided by the telecom operator Maxnet. You can read more about this technology in our article «PON: Internet accessible to everyone».

There is other good news: at the end of October this year, the Ministry of Digital Transformation announced the launch of public Internet connection points in the coming months, which will work independently of the power grid. For this purpose, it is planned to use Starlink terminals and Tesla Powerwall batteries. Thanks to the implementation of this project, it will be possible to provide citizens throughout Ukraine with stable Internet amid power outages.

How to continue working with computer programs without electricity


Power outages certainly cause inconvenience to people in their daily lives. But this is not a sentence to work on a computer. So, users have the opportunity to:

  1. Save laptop power.

    To optimize the performance of a laptop running Windows or macOS, it is advisable to reduce the screen brightness. It is also recommended to manually set the most efficient power consumption. To do this, owners of devices on Windows OS need to go to «Start», find «Settings». In the «System» category, select «Battery and power», in the «Power saver» section - «Turn on now». The procedure for macOS owners is as follows: go to «System Preferences», select the «Battery» section, and on the «Batteries» icon, check the box next to the «Low Power Mode» option.

  2. Connect your laptop to your smartphone's Wi-Fi.

    If the Internet is working on the phone, you can connect your laptop to it. To do this, open «Settings», find «Connections», go to the «Mobile hotspot and tethering» section and activate the «Mobile hotspot» option. Just keep in mind that when you connect a laptop to the Internet via a smartphone, the latter is discharged faster.

  3. Use mobile internet.

    Of course, this alternative method is suitable in the presence of the mobile Internet itself, the signal quality of which deteriorates greatly when the communication lines are overloaded. An external antenna will help speed up the signal, provided that an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is connected to the Wi-Fi router.

  4. Enable offline mode for Google Doc and email in advance.

    As long as you have internet access, download the Google Documents offline extension. After that, open Google Drive, in the upper right corner click «Settings» and in the «General» section, turn on «Offline access». As a result, you will be able to work offline with all services: «Documents», «Spreadsheets», «Presentations». To set up work with e-mail in the absence of electricity, you need to go into it, open «Settings» in the upper right corner and click on «View all settings». Then turn on the «Offline» option under the «General» section, select the Gmail synchronization period (7, 30 or 90) and click «Save Changes».

In addition, do not forget to charge your laptop and other devices necessary for work (power bank, tablet, phone) on time. And then, even if the power outage does not occur according to the schedule, it will not take you by surprise and will give you the opportunity to work for some more time.

How to protect equipment from power surges


The appearance of light after a shutdown is often accompanied by power surges in the network, which breaks the equipment. The easiest way to protect computers and household appliances from damage is to unplug devices when you do not need to use them. And there are also so-called «smart» sockets that allow you to turn off the power according to a personal schedule (for greater convenience, such a process can be controlled even at a distance).

To protect equipment from power surges when the light is turned on, it is recommended to use a stabilizer or a special relay, which, in the event of a sharp jump, disconnects the devices from the power supply.

In addition to providing backup power for the central router, it is important to take care of backup power for the home router. As it is, you can purchase and connect a UPS with a battery. Then the router will be able to work 4-6 hours. It is also possible to provide a constant current source with the help of generators of various types (gasoline, diesel, gas).

More information about autonomous backup power sources can be found in our article: «‎Backup power system for home».

Summary

As much as we would like a different scenario, the situation is such that rolling power outages in the near future on the territory of Ukraine will continue. Therefore, users of the fixed Internet should prepare in advance for a large-scale blackout in order to minimize its negative impact on their usual life activities.

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