KOLKATA: Almost 48 hours after the Amphan rampage, cellular operators are still finding it hard to restore services with incessant power cuts, roads blocked by fallen trees and uprooted lamp posts causing hindrances. The continuous signal loss, call drops and no internet have angered most subscribers in Kolkata and its vicinity.
Tired of getting the “emergency calls only” signal for the whole day, Manisha Maity, a housewife in Behala, has switched off her handset. “It can’t get worse. Cable TV was gone off air and there is no social media, no OTT platforms on cellphones either. The customer care centres are either making false promises or giving no reply at all,” she said.

Advocate Tridib Sarkar of Kaikhali was left frustrated after exhausting all his options to regain internet services. “Authorities are passing the buck. Staff of cellular firms are blaming power lapse while power utilities are saying road blocks caused by trees are hindering restoration,” he said.
Almost all cellular service providers have told TOI they are working round the clock to restore services. However, they kept mum when asked about a time frame or details of the restoration job. Top officials of Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), too, didn’t take calls made by TOI.
Netizens have taken to social media platforms, tagging the top service providers to seek immediate restoration of internet facilities. Vodafone Idea, while replying to a Twitter user, said, “Vodafone Idea teams are working in extremely tough conditions to restore connectivity at the earliest.”
“Your Airtel network could be experiencing disruptions in certain flood-affected areas due to cyclone Amphan. Please be assured our teams are making all possible efforts to ensure that network is up and running in this hour of need,” Bharti Airtel replied to another Tweet
A top executive at a tower maintenance outfit said the hurdles faced in using generator sets at mobile towers on private premises could be a cause for this widespread disruption. “Remember, two towers need to be strong enough to emit and receive signals to let a call complete its course. And that is not happening in the Kolkata circle following the cyclone,” he said.
A network engineer from a leading cellular firm claimed that almost 70% of the city network has got back its signal as “optical fibre and microwave antenna damages have largely been repaired”. “The rest can’t emit signal for want of power supply. A few pockets of north Kolkata and several power-hit areas of the south are still in trouble,” he said.
Networking personnel who spoke to TOI, however, assured that it will take a day or two to ensure smooth connectivity.

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KOLKATA: If cyclone Amphan battered Kolkata for over six hours on Wednesday, the city suffered the after-effects the day after as lakhs of citizens were left without power, water supply and other basic essentials of daily life. To add to their woes, connectivity — be it cellular or internet — remained snapped across the length and breadth of the city through the day.

Power cuts for long hours were blamed for the zero cellular link, data disruption and other communication losses during and after the cyclone, say service providers and telecom infrastructure experts. Without a constant power supply, towers stop emitting signals and become dependent on backup batteries and generator sets.
The cellphone sites are mostly shared by multiple cellular companies for emitting signals to their respective subscribers and managed/maintained by third-party tower operators, who arrange mobile DG sets and critical equipment spares at key locations.
A senior official of a tower infrastructure outfit in the city told TOI that besides power cuts, two-three other factors were responsible for this communication mayhem. “High wind speed affected optical fibre lines, shifted angles of microwave antenna-routers and tore apart power cables, resulting in a complete link loss in most places,” he explained.
However, sources said, of around 12,000 transmission towers dotting the city, not a single signal-emission site was destroyed, broken or blown away by the cyclone this time. But most of the cellular firms, cable TV networks and wired broadband internet providers are connected to their head offices via overhead optical fibres, which took a huge beating amid the cyclone and caused the largest communication lapse in Kolkata till date, said a telecom consultant.
Cut off from the rest of the world in his single-room flat in Dum Dum on Wednesday night, Anindyo Samajpati was frantically looking for a way out beyond the usual text-data-cellphone-landline route to send across an all-important project file to his client by midnight. “I never felt so helpless. Normally, we try an alternative when we fail to get through the one. But, during and after the cyclone, we were at our wit’s end as all the avenues were closed. Over and above, there was a long power cut,” said Samajpati, a consultant working for a global HR firm. Ratna Majumder, a business woman from Jadavpur, complained about massive signal fluctuations in her cellphone. “Most in my family weren’t getting signals while my handset had intermittent network,” she said.
A network official at a cellular service provider said that all handsets catch signal from the nearest tower but if it doesn’t always work that way, signals from other towers get through, causing fluctuations. Tower firms also alleged that some towers erected on the private premises are not allowed to use DG sets run by fuel.
In a tweet on Thursday, Vodafone Idea admitted that ‘massive power outages have disrupted voice and data services. Vodafone Idea teams are working in extremely tough conditions to restore connectivity at the earliest’. A Reliance Jio official said that majority of sites were up and running but there were issues at few locations due to power outage and access to sites was a challenging task due to flooding. Other cellular operators, too, are claiming to be working 24×7 to restore the signal despite lack of manpower amid the lockdown and inclement weather.

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KOLKATA: The state health department has banned cellphones inside Covid-19 hospitals across Bengal.
The order, passed late on Tuesday and addressed to district magistrates (DM)s, chief medical officers of health (CMOH)s and superintendents of Covid-19 dedicated hospitals, read: “Since mobile phones can be a potential source of spreading Covid-19 infection, no one will be allowed to carry, possess or use mobile phones inside Covid hospitals in the state. This applies to all persons inside the hospital, whether patient or staff on duty. The deposit of patients’ mobile phones may be taken and a receipt may be given to them. However, to ensure they have a communication channel to the hospital administration, intercom facility may be provided in the wards.”

“What is wrong in reiterating the same guidelines? It’s for the benefit of patients, isn’t it?” said minister of state for health Chandrima Bhattacharya. Ajay Chakravorty, director of health services, said, “On Tuesday, there were discussions regarding the use of mobiles in Covid-19 hospitals.”
Senior officials at Swasthya Bhavan pointed out that a video clip, ostensibly recorded by a suspected Covid-19 patient at M R Bangur Hospital, had gone viral on Tuesday, prompting them to issue the order. The video shared extensively on social media showed a body, covered in plastic, lying on one of the beds at the hospital ward. “We have nothing to hide. It takes some time to remove a body, according to the protocol. But mobiles are not supposed to be used inside Covid-19 isolation wards for the sheer hazard and the transmission risk involved. You can check with private hospitals and find that the same stringent rule is in place everywhere. We have very clear instructions against the use of cellphones in these places,” said Sisir Naskar, superintendent at M R Bangur Hospital.
The hospital on D S Road in Tollygunge was last month designated as one of the four “state-level” city hospitals, dedicated to the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
NRS Hospital principal Saibal Mukherjee said, “I have not seen the order yet but we don’t allow mobiles in our isolation wards.”
Naskar said the order was being implemented at M R Bangur from Wednesday, and patients either left their mobiles with their families or submitted them to nurses. “Patients can communicate with their families through attendants, who will speak on their behalf on the intercom. We have three such attendants on every shift, acting as the liaison between patients and families,” the MR Bangur superintendent said. About the video, he said, “It’s authenticity is yet to be verified. A video has a voice, saying the body had been lying in the ward for two hours. Going by the protocol, a patient is declared dead four hours after his/her heartbeat stops. After four hours, the body goes to the morgue. So, we have not erred even if the video is authentic.”
Union minister Babul Supriyo tweeted on the ban on mobiles in hospitals, questioning its timing. He questioned whether the person who recorded the video had been “booked”. Kolkata Police responded it was completely incorrect and a misinformation.

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