While communication breakdowns in the disaster area drew great public reaction, investigations were launched against GSM companies due to the disruptions in this process.
The Information Technologies and Communication Authority turned the investigation into an investigation regarding whether the operators fulfilled their obligations in the earthquakes that occurred on February 06, 2023.
In the decision of the Authority seen by Bloomberg HT, the Board took the agenda ex officio as “In order to ensure that the communication can continue uninterruptedly and to maintain the integrity of the communication networks during and after the earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.7 in the Pazarcık district of central Kahramanmaraş and 7.6 in the Elbistan district on 06.02.2023, the relevant authorities of the operators It was stated that the subject of “inspecting whether the obligations under the legislation are fulfilled” were examined.
In this context, the provisions of the first paragraph of Article 17 of the Consumer Rights Regulation on the Electronic Communications Sector, titled “Restriction and suspension of service”, and the article titled “Emergency call services, communication in case of disasters and emergencies”, “Disaster recovery center”. It was stated that it was decided to initiate an investigation based on the obligations defined in other legislation.
In the decision, TT Mobile Communication Services before and after the earthquakes that took place in Kahramanmaraş-centered Pazarcık and Elbistan districts on February 6, 2023 and affected the provinces and districts of Adana, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Şanlıurfa and the surrounding provinces and districts. A.Ş., Turkcell İletişim Hizmetleri A.Ş. and Vodafone Telekomünikasyon A.Ş. will be investigated at two points.
Continuity of communication processes will be examined
The first of the main points of the investigation carried out by the BTK is, “The installation of mobile base stations and generator reinforcement of companies, from the Disaster Emergency Management Coordination group from 04:17 on 6 February 2023 until 1 March 2023, free minutes, SMS and internet identification in order to ensure communication continuity, opening of all restricted lines and the processes it carries out based on all other transactions”.
The second subject of investigation by the Authority was defined as “The compliance of the activities in this process with the obligations under the relevant legislation, primarily for the uninterrupted continuation of communication and the maintenance of the integrity of the communication networks”.
In the decision, “Taking all necessary measures by the above-mentioned Operators regarding the duly fulfillment of the obligations arising from the relevant legislation regarding the uninterrupted communication of the entire mobile communication network and infrastructure throughout the country in case of disasters and emergencies, taking into account earthquakes, and the application calendar for the implementation processes regarding the planned measures. all possible disaster emergency action, business continuity, change management, etc. It was requested that the process/plans be revised and sent to the Institution within 1 month.
While the investments of the companies decreased, there was a fiasco in disaster management.
The loss of communication during the most critical first hours during the earthquake caused major disruptions in the aid and search and rescue efforts. While the majority of the base stations installed on the buildings without adequate research on the earthquake risk became unusable due to the collapse of the buildings, the mobile stations brought later could not reach sufficient capacity due to the problems experienced in the energy supply.
While the disruptions in disaster management brought the GSM companies to the public agenda, the financial results of the companies pointed out that the investments decreased in real terms.
According to the financial results of Turkcell and Türk Telekom, which are publicly traded in Turkey, the increase in investment expenditures of companies in recent years has mostly lagged behind inflation.
According to Türk Telekom’s financial results, the investment expenditure of the company in 2022 was recorded as 14 billion TL. In 2021, the company’s capital expenditure was recorded as 8.7 billion. Considering these data, it was seen that the company increased its investment expenditures by 61.4% annually in 2022. This increase fell behind the annual inflation of 64.27 percent recorded in 2022. In other words, the investment expenditures of the company decreased in real terms in 2022.
A similar picture was observed in the investment performance of Türk Telekom in 2021. The increase in the investment expenditures of the company in 2021 was 24.6 percent, lagging behind the 36.08 percent inflation.
Looking at the performance of the company in previous years, it was observed that investment expenditures decreased in 2017 and 2018 in nominal terms. In 2017, the company’s investment expenditures were 9.5 percent; In 2018, it fell 3.8 percent.