Communications networks and services play a vital role in Ireland’s economy and wider society. A web of interconnected networks are woven into the fabric of all our lives helping us to communicate, socialise, stream media content, and do business.
Our reliance on these networks will only grow in the future as they increasingly support different aspects of our domestic and work lives. However, the infrastructure that the telecommunication networks rely on is by its nature vulnerable to extreme weather events: often located in exposed areas vulnerable to storm and wind conditions or buried underground and liable to flooding. In 2021 Storm Barra affected 200,000 telecommunication users. As climate change progressively affects Ireland’s weather, storms, heavy rainfall, floods and heatwaves will all occur more frequently.
Extreme weather events will therefore increasingly affect the telecommunications infrastructure both directly (for example through fallen poles) and indirectly (through power outages).
ComReg the Irish Telecommunications regulator has today published a report by Frontier Economics that identifies existing vulnerabilities in Irish telecommunications networks and what steps each operator is already undertaking to adapt to climate change. All operators already undertake activities to mitigate the impact of severe weather including redundancy and backup measures, infrastructure reinforcement, preventative maintenance programmes and active network monitoring.
However, our review identifies potential further measures that could be adopted to support the resilience of telecommunication networks to severe weather, and thereby help the sector adapt to the challenges of climate change.
These findings are summarised in the figure below.