The Nature of Resilience for Mobile Networks

This blog is the second in a series focusing on the recently launched GSMA Business Continuity Management toolkit. In this edition we will focus on an excerpt from the full report on ‘the nature of resilience for mobile networks’.

Ultimately business continuity plan (BCP) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) practices are looking to make mobile networks as resilient as possible to the effects of disasters. This is both to minimise loss to the business and maximise support for agencies and the general populace during such disaster events. In order to achieve these outcomes, we must consider what characteristics we are looking to develop as part of the BCP and DRR development. The following are a few characteristics which may be helpful in such planning.


A key part of planning is assessing not just the risks presented to the business and populace by particular disaster scenarios but also an awareness of the capacity the business has to combat it. Assessing and being aware of the business’s strengths and assets as well as vulnerabilities and liabilities will be key to creating effective plans to respond to disaster scenarios. This needs to be a continuous process. New technologies may provide a greater degree of network robustness in the face of disruption, and likewise, natural risks may increase, decrease or change. BCPs will need to reflect these changed circumstances.

Capacity and robustness:

Key to resilience is not just having sufficient capacity for day-to-day needs but also being able to offer diverse solutions when a disaster strikes. For example, power for a mobile base station under normal operations would constitute a grid supply and sufficient local generation (e.g. a diesel generator) to cover the level of grid outages normally expected. However in disaster situations there is the potential for much longer outages/disruption, so capacity should look to cover longer periods and possibly utilise alternative power supplies (e.g. solar power, fuel cells, etc.).

Whilst increasing the resilience of a mobile network has associated costs in terms of both capital expenditure and operational expenses, this should be weighed against the potential future cost to the business when a disaster strikes in terms of:

  • recovery time objectives;
  • revenue loss;
  • asset loss;
  • reputational damage; and
  • regulatory compliance as well as the potential for lowering fiscal volatility for the MNO.


Support for co-ordination, both within MNO departments and externally to agencies through various channels, will greatly increase the ability to both re-establish the network and business as well as support humanitarian efforts.

This is a key principle in the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter. Keeping the humanitarian agencies informed of network coverage and outages will help direct efforts and make use of emergency telecom systems where needed. Inversely this may also help co-ordinate assistance from the MNOs themselves, for example access to supply chains for essential transport.


The business needs to be able to regulate itself so it can deal with anomalous and irregular situations without creating a long term catastrophic fail for the business or avoid a cascade of failures becoming systemic.

There also needs to be a balance of external regulation (from government), which whilst supporting normal activities to an agreed standard, should also have the flexibility to allow for disaster situations. For example, a simplified and expedient importation of telecoms equipment process as well as potential incentives to help reduce the cost:benefit ratio for the MNOs to help them build resilience for the network.

GSMA has published an emergency mobile telecommunications regulatory best practice guideline.


The need for agility and flexibility is critical. By their very nature disasters can strike with little or no warning and rarely in the same way as before, plus during the response phase circumstances are frequently changing. Consequently, flexibility in planning and action is essential, no one plan will be able to provide a complete solution to every eventuality.
In order to create that flexibility, plans and processes need to be able to allow for innovation and initiative which can lead to adaptability in the face of an ever changing situation.


In order to create effective and adaptable plans, the planning process needs to be inclusive of all the stakeholders (subscribers, emergency services, regulators, NGOs etc.) and those on which the MNO depends (vendors, suppliers, etc.).

Taking the above qualities and applying them to business continuity planning and management should make the overall resilience of the business more encompassing with fewer vulnerabilities for the business.

For further information on all of the issues covered in this blog, please read the full report. This is the second in a series of blogs which will explore business continuity management best practise for the mobile industry. You’ll hear more from us soon.

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