Unfortunately, thousands of our citizens died as a result of two terrible earthquakes in Kahramanmaras, which affected more than 10 provinces. While Turkey’s heart was on fire, communications infrastructure failed during the most critical first 72 hours of search and rescue efforts to retrieve quake victims from the rubble. In such emergency situations, when communication is vital, the failure of some base stations in the region has led to the fact that our citizens were under the rubble. So, do GSM operators in Turkey have disaster plans in place? Let’s look at the details together.
Almost 30% of the base stations in the region were completely disabled during the earthquakes in Kahramanmaras.
While being able to communicate during natural disasters is vital, the failure of base stations in an earthquake area can have very dangerous consequences. In addition, telephone and internet connections were cut off for several days due to power outages and fiber optic lines in the region. While earthquake victims were victims, the question that came to mind was whether the GSM operators in Turkey are earthquake resistant.
The Media and Legal Research Association (MLSA) opened a criminal case against the authorities of the GSM operators after the earthquake.
The MLSA cited “communication blockage”, “deliberate reckless killing” and “intentional bodily harm” as reasons. Saying that those affected by earthquakes have a responsibility to communicate during the crisis, the association wants GSM companies to question their disaster plans.
m-TOD, the umbrella association for operators such as Turkcell, Vodafone and Türk Telekom, issued several statements regarding the criticism.
Claiming freedom of speech and internet identification is assured in the region, m-TOD says phones should only be used for emergency calls to prevent heavy traffic from building up, 2,451 out of 8,900 base stations in earthquake zones were shut down due to severe damage, 190 Mobile base stations were sent to the region. He also said that generators were sent to the region to provide the necessary energy to run the resources as the lines were damaged.
Can the urgent communication needs that arise during a crisis be met?
Some damage to communications infrastructure is expected to occur during natural disasters. However, according to some experts, there is a monopoly of telecommunications infrastructure in Turkey. This prevents immediate communication needs from being met.
Füsun Sarp Nebil, an IT and telecommunications specialist, explains that all of Turkey only has Türk Telekom’s infrastructure network, but if there were more than one network, communications could continue without interruption. Nebil also claims that Turkish infrastructure has been hampered for years, saying: “After privatization in 2005, the infrastructure privilege in Turkey was transferred to Türk Telekom until 2026. In 2006, the Information Technology Authority (BTK) published a provision called an infrastructure license and 14 companies were licensed under it. These companies paid 200-300 thousand dollars for obtaining licenses. Despite this money, they were not employed.” speaks. He claims that only Türk Telekom has a network in the earthquake area and explains that the antennas installed on the buildings collapsed during the earthquake. To sum up, GSM operators in Turkey do not have a clear plan of action in case of a natural disaster. In our country, as well as in the construction fund, there should be a control mechanism in the infrastructure works of operators.
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