Phone at the beach and Netflix at the campsite: in summer, networks risk overheating

Even on vacation, the French remain addicted to their smartphone. At the beach, on a hike or in a camping tent, you never stop surfing the Internet or texting your loved ones. And in some very touristy regions, operators have to deal with an influx of holidaymakers which can cause traffic jams on the networks.

Netflix Has 45% Fewer Movies (and 400% More TV Shows) Than it Did ...Send a photo of his swimming pool to anger his friends, tell his grandmother about his visits for an hour on the phone, post “stories” on social networks… It is now the routine of connected holidaymakers . But you still have to have a network to do all that! 4G is sometimes as coveted as freshness in summer, especially in tourist sites that are not always well covered. And in summer, with the massive influx of tourists in some regions, the networks are sticking their tongue out a bit. A recurring phenomenon which operators are tackling as best they can.

Summer doesn’t rhyme with offline

All operators agree on one point: despite the Covid-19, summer 2020 is within the expected range in terms of demand from internet and mobile networks. Neither more nor less tense than last year, proof that French tourists are making up for the absence of foreigners . But expected does not mean simple and operators all agree: summer is a complicated period. In some municipalities, the population is multiplied by three, five or even ten in a few days. And between the crazy “Instagrammers”, those who cannot do without the GPS when hiking and those who do not let go of Netflix even at the campsite, the overload quickly arrived.

We are not talking about breakdowns or blackouts of course, but rather small slowdowns here and there … The operators minimize but it must be said: it quickly becomes annoying when you cannot even call someone, even when 4G or wifi. It’s annoying, but it’s inevitable, recognizes Nicolas Drouillet, Grand Sud Est networks director at Orange: “Our networks are designed and sized to absorb extremely large flows. After that, there is necessarily a capacity limit on a network. Occasionally and temporarily, that limit can be crossed, “he admits.

Result, even if Orange is now able to say that it covers 99% of the population with 4G and 97% of municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants, this does not mean that the performance of the network is still up to par. customer expectations. This was the case at the start of the confinement: teleworking suddenly imposed on millions of French people, coupled with the explosion in demand for Netflix-type streaming services, led to slowdowns on the Internet, fixed and mobile networks. for a few days , while the operators adjust.

Analyze the data and pray for the weather

To limit snags and absorb sudden influxes of phones and computers into specific areas, operators are using phone data. When we move, we “bound” every time we connect to a relay antenna. This generates masses of anonymized data that Bouygues, SFR and others analyze to determine traffic and network tension on tourist sites every summer. They then derive forecasts and, if necessary, increase the capacity of the network for the following summer. “We know that the volume of data exchanged increases by 40% each year with the evolution of uses, so we increase the capacity of the network every year as a result”, assures Nicolas Drouillet, of Orange.

But all these forecasts do not prevent glitches, especially due to the vagaries of the weather. “The heat wave can have an impact on the electronic equipment located in the technical cabinets. They are ventilated and designed to withstand high temperatures. But they can overheat and it happens that we have breakdowns”, explains Fabrice Levillain, regional director of Grand Ouest network at Bouygues Télécom. The islands, in particular, are very exposed to the vagaries of the sky. “The terrestrial antennas which connect the sites of the island and the continent are aligned one in front of the other. In the event of wind, they can ‘shift away’, shift”, specifies Fabrice Levillain. In this case, the transmission slows down and there is a traffic jam to post vacation photos.