Earthquake double-blow tests telco networks

By Hamish Fletcher

Telecommunications networks in Christchurch and northeast Japan faced similar problems after earthquakes hit the regions.

The robustness of communications infrastructure in both areas surprised commentators, with the main disruption coming from power outages rather than direct damage.

In Japan, power-plant failures and electricity shortages meant both fixed line and mobile phone services were disrupted.

The situation worsened in the days after the quake, as generator fuel and batteries powering cell-towers ran out.

This mirrored the immediate period following the Christchurch earthquake, where mobile networks relied on power generators until the electricity grid was restored.

Mobile networks in both zones were heavily congested following the tremors, as family and friends scrambled to contact one another. With the failure of fixed-line phone services, residents in Christchurch and Japan relied heavily on mobile phones, which placed extra strain on the networks.

The violence of the Japanese earthquake saw almost 900,000 phones lines fail and authorities are yet to say how many lines require major repair work.

On the other hand, the owner of most of the phone network in Christchurch, Chorus, recorded 200 faults on its lines.

While the network has been fully restored in Canterbury, repairs are ongoing in Japan and an analyst said the network could deteriorate further.

"We expect some new problems will emerge in the coming weeks as stressed or damaged infrastructure fails, both on land and undersea," said Ovum's research director David Kennedy.

Kennedy said telecommunications networks may hold up initially after a disaster, but can fail days or weeks later because of ongoing vibrations.

- NZ Herald

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