|Photo credit: AFP/JIJI PRESS
|Charges for making public telephone calls have been suspended; and
approximately 1500 new public telephones have been specially installed
On 12 July 2011, almost three months after a magnitude 9.0
earthquake and giant tsunami struck eastern Japan, the number
of deaths stood at 15 555, and 5344 people were still missing.
The need for communication is as great as ever. Much of the
damaged telecommunications infrastructure has been restored,
largely through the concerted efforts of the government and telecommunication
carriers, but work has been hampered in certain
areas because damaged roads and tunnels have made it difficult
to get access.
This update on telecommunication and broadcast infrastructure
tracks efforts to restore disrupted services, and how much
remains to be done. It also notes just a few examples of the hundreds
of gestures of support by the private sector.
Needless to say, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications is making every effort to overcome the devastation
and the difficulties faced by the victims of the disaster, acting
with the local authorities and supported by other public sector
institutions. Again, just a few examples are given here of the
many activities undertaken.
Status of telecommunications infrastructure
By the end of April, services had been restored at all disrupted
fixed-line telephone exchanges operated by NTT East except
in the restricted zone around the Fukushima nuclear power
plant, and in other areas where damage to roads and tunnels
makes it physically impossible to carry out restoration work.
Approximately 12 000 fixed-line services (subscriber lines and
the integrated services digital network — ISDN) are still out of
service (as of 14 July 2011), mainly in coastal regions. In all, there
are about three million telephone line subscriptions in the Tohoku
region, and an estimated one million lines were disrupted by the
disaster. Around 2300 fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) subscriber lines
of FLET’S Hikari were disrupted, mainly in coastal regions.
By the end of April, except in a few areas, mobile phone coverage
was back to pre-earthquake levels. The four carriers (NTT
DoCoMo, KDDI, Softbank Mobile and eMobile) have a combined
total of around 70 000 base stations in the Tohoku and Kanto
regions, and the disaster put approximately 14 800 of them out
of service. All of eMobile’s base stations are operational. But
around 329 base stations of the other operators are still out of
service as follows: 241 for NTT DoCoMo, 25 for KDDI (au) and
63 for Softbank Mobile (as of 14 July 2011).
Status of broadcast infrastructure
By 14 July, only one of the 56 television relay stations in
Miyagi prefecture remained out of operation. The number of affected
households is relatively low.
Within the 20-km restricted zone around the Fukushima
No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, one radio relay station (national public
broadcaster NHK’s Futaba medium-wave 1 repeater station
in Tomioka-machi, Futaba-gun) is out of operation. The number
of television relay stations out of operation peaked at 120 after
the disaster, in an area extending across Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi,
Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba, Kanagawa
and Nagano prefectures.
|Photo credit: MIC/Japan
Only two radio relay stations went out of operation: one in
Iwate prefecture and one in Fukushima prefecture. Operations
have since been restored at both of these radio relay stations, and
all AM and FM radio broadcasts are now operating as normal.
Assistance from the international community
Message from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan
At this time of great crisis in Japan, we have
received deeply-appreciated messages of condolence
and assistance from ITU and other international
organizations, as well as from many countries around
ITU was one of the first organizations to offer
practical assistance to Japan following the
earthquake and tsunami disaster of 11 March 2011.
That kind offer was immediately taken up, and ITU
provided 153 units of satellite telecommunication
equipment free of charge to Japan, which the
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
received by 22 March. The Ministry immediately
distributed these units to prefectural and local
governments in the affected areas. The satellite
telecommunication equipment is being used for relief
and reconstruction activities, as well as to provide
emergency humanitarian assistance.
At the same time, ITU called on its members to
assist Japan. In response to that request, financial
support was received via ITU from the governments
of Australia, Canada and China, as well as from
the Union’s industry members. We gratefully
acknowledge this financial support.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr
Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of ITU, who
offered a deeply-appreciated message of condolence
and assistance to Japan in the immediate aftermath
of the disaster, as well as ITU staff, and all ITU
members who have provided such wonderful support
On behalf of the Government of Japan and the
Japanese people, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications would like to express our deepest
gratitude for such generous assistance from all
around the world.
In response to requests from local governments in areas
affected by the disaster, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications has supplied 353 satellite phone units and
1770 emergency-use portable communication facilities, including
multi-channel access (MCA) and convenience radio, at no
cost. At the request of NHK, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and
Communications approved exemption from payment of receiver
fees. No reminders or demands for unpaid spectrum fees are
being sent to licensees living in the affected areas. A total of
10 000 portable radios have been distributed to regions affected
by the disaster.
Emergency relief teams from overseas have been granted
temporary licences for radio transmission systems. In response
to requests from 24 local governments in the affected areas, the
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has also permitted
the temporary establishment of disaster radio stations broadcasting
on the FM band.
Telecommunication carriers have supplied 1151 units of mobile
communication equipment and 938 satellite phone units at
no cost. More than 100 portable power generators and 22 mobile
base station trucks have also been provided. Charges for
making public telephone calls have been suspended; and approximately
1500 new public telephones have been specially
installed. Various dedicated services have been set up as part
of the disaster relief effort, including a phone message service
to help people get in contact with each other and a broadband
message board. Free Internet connections have been set up at
evacuation centres. Basic telephone rates have been reduced or
waived altogether, and payment deadlines have been extended.
In cooperation with various manufacturers, NHK has installed
750 televisions and 760 radios in evacuation centres.
Manufacturers, including Panasonic and Sony, have already supplied
over 40 000 radios.
The Nationwide Evacuee Data System registers details and
addresses of evacuees, while the e-government portal e-Gov
provides computer and mobile phone links (in Japanese and in
other languages) to national and local government services. The
Tohoku and Pacific Ocean Earthquake Learning Support Portal
for Students tracks items required by students and the available
relief supplies. The YouTube Personal Message Channel, set up
with assistance from TBS Television and other operators, provides
local information on the location of evacuation centres and emergency
kitchens. NTT East and West, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, Softbank
Mobile, Google, NTT Resonant and others are providing emergency
message board services. Google has also set up Person
Finder, a register and search service for confirming the safety of
loved ones. The Amazon Web Service Japan User Group provides
information on the state of medical facilities, basic utilities, and
the trajectories of radioactive materials.
Future disaster preparedness
In April, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
set up a Task Force to examine ways of securing communication
methods in the event of a major natural disaster or other
emergency. The Task Force will examine, in particular, how to
address congestion in communications infrastructure during
emergencies, and how to secure communication methods when
base stations and relay stations are damaged. Learning from the
experiences of the recent disaster, the Task Force will consider
the future of network infrastructure and how to make better use
of the Internet.
* This article is based on contribution from the International
Policy Division, Global ICT Strategy Bureau of Japan’s Ministry
of Internal Affairs and Communications.