Every other article about the telco industry today speaks about the game-changing digitization and all the challenges and opportunities that come with it. However, on the positive note the telcos should probably be used to the state of certain uncertainty, because all sorts of market disruptions have been their companions from the beginning of (telco industry) time. Here are some examples of telecommunication industry disruptions that have literally come from the sky or even from the bushes. Of course we hope nothing of this sort ever happens to our partners (and all furry animals are also left unharmed).
1. Price war in India
In 2017, Reliance Industries' Jio triggered a brutal price war in Indian telecom sector, offering free data and calls to its subscribers. This has brought along a 33% fall in consumer spends and is becoming a heyday for the subscribers and a nightmare for the other telcos.
By some sources the current revenues can barely cover operational costs, sparking rumors about the other operators being on the verge of bankruptcy. It has also brought on a rapid wave of consolidation, leaving three major players on the market.
2. Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
In September 2017, the category 5 storm Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, leaving 95% of its cell towers out of service. The situation was dragged on by electricity outages and fuel shortages.
The lack of cell service hindered the necessary logistics for helping people in need, also the people couldn’t contact their loved-ones or the outside world. 25% of the population was still without service more than a month later.
Since people are more and more reliant on mobile phones, maintaining cell service during natural disasters is becoming increasingly critical. For example, AT&T tested placing portable cell towers on drones as a temporary solution.
3. Energy crisis in Nigeria
Even though Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and also largest oil producer, it has to import refined petroleum products due to a lack of local refineries. The country is also not able to generate sufficient amount of power.
The constant energy crises is burning a hole in the pockets of telcos, who have to power their own services with fuel generators. In 2015, telecommunications in Nigeria were almost shut down due to the fuel crisis.
4. Drug cartels’ private networks in Mexico
This mobile network might not be open to the general public, but it’s an industry nevertheless. The Mexican and US government have been engaged in a war on drugs for decades, including busts on cartels’ private mobile networks.
Over the years there have been a myriad of news about the private communications networks the gangs build and use. The authorities have broken up extensive networks that stretch 500 miles along the border and another 500 miles in Mexico’s interior.
But it seems like battling the 100 headed dragon, because the equipment is hidden in remote locations and connected to solar power. The cartels kidnap and enslave engineers to help them build and maintain those networks. Just this year a Canadian CEO was arrested for supplying extra safe encrypted phones to Mexican cartels.
5. Raccoons attack in four states of Southeast USA
Depicted raccoon was (probably) not harmed in the incident
In 2015 a massive cell phone outage hit four states of Southeast USA - parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia were left without service. The reason was believed to be vandalism or a raccoon (or why not both - a vandalist raccoon).
As a matter of fact, big portion of different infrastructure issues are brought on by animal attacks. Squirrels have probably caused way more power outages than cyber-criminals. Even underwater is not safe - sharks nibble on transoceanic fibre cables, as they are probably attracted to the electromagnetic fields.