Digital Editorial

Sovereignty and telecom networks [8 May 2023]

The parliamentary commission of inquiry on the reasons for our loss of energy sovereignty, has highlighted the errors of our leaders and lack of anticipation and strategic visions. According to my point of view, these failures are of two types, political mistakes, and also a belief in the beneficial effect of the free market and competition at all costs! However, for certain economic sectors, it would be judicious to engage important structural investments in order to allow a long term vision and for the state to fully play its organizing role.

What lessons can be drawn from this commission of inquiry for other strategic sectors? Digital technology is now a vital element for the proper functioning of our societies. And we tend to forget it, but the digital requires to operate many infrastructures, including telecom networks, 5g, 4g, fiber network and copper network (residual?) … The war in Ukraine has also reminded the vulnerability of our submarine cable infrastructure to acts of sabotage, and it should be remembered that 99% of our Internet traffic passes through the physical network of submarine cables (Le jdd – 22-10-2021) …

It would therefore be interesting to look into the matter, and to verify that the right decisions are being taken to ensure our sovereignty in this area as well, and to take any necessary measures if this is not the case.

Indeed, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

– Are telecom providers investing enough to ensure sufficient infrastructure resilience with the right amount of redundancy? This question is important because the entry of competition in this market, if it has been beneficial in terms of costs for the consumer, has it ensured that the players in the field have the necessary backbone to ensure the robustness of our infrastructures? However, some recent events raise doubts: blackouts of emergency calls, sabotage of fibers that severely disrupt the service provided, etc.

– The question of the dependence of our digital infrastructures on our electrical infrastructures. Indeed, how to manage the risk linked to load shedding or even a blackout of our electrical network on the good functioning of our telecom network? The question is not just a rhetorical one, in fact Germany was close to an electrical blackout and only a part of the 33000 mobile towers operated by Deutsche Telekom has a backup power system (Révolution Énergétique)… The question is of course raised for France.

– Another question, will our big telecom operators remain French, a crucial question to keep a minimum of sovereignty! Is this a question of pure rhetoric? No, the former head of France Telecom (Orange) had recognized that it had been considered a takeover by Deutsche Telekom in 2013, it questions, especially since new rumors of merger were denied in 2019 by Orange and Deutsche Telekom. Even if the situation has changed since then, can we imagine that public and governmental actors, such as our President, who have always preferred to sell French jewels to foreigners, have really changed their tune, and this despite the speeches now about the reconquest of our sovereignties? “Word, and word…

In this short editorial, I am only scratching the surface of the subject, asking a few questions that seem relevant to me. I hope that they will allow the beginning of a reflection and discussions!


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