Of phones and earthquakes

The dramatic earthquake in Sichuan has revealed the incredible resilience of Chinese telecommunication operators. China’s telecom industry as a whole had dispatched 15,000 staff, 520 satellite phones and 650 sets of emergency telecommunication equipment. While China Telecom was working hard on restoring its fiber optics network, China Unicom launched satellite communication services in the region. China Mobile set up three temporary mobile communication base stations at the rescue command center. China Mobile’s Sichuan branch also opened sites in areas with dense populations in Sichuan Province so that people affected by the earthquake can keep in touch with their families and friends around the nation. By May 14, it had set up more than 2100 such sites to provide free telephone service, free mobile phone battery charging and free drinking water.

Analysts estimate that operators might have to spend as much as USD 200 million to reconstruct or replace up to 2,600 base stations which may have been destroyed or badly damaged by the earthquake. The use of alternative communication technologies  also highlighted the importance of redundancy. Xiaolingtong phones (aka “little smart”) are being extensively used in place of the mobile phones. China Satellite Communications Corporation is importing 1,000 satellite phones amid efforts to support the disaster areas in addition to the 350 satellite phones alrady dispatched to rescue personnel.

P.S.: The crisis has also prompted most players in the sector to donate either equipment or cash.