Smart, Sun fully restored mobile networks in all towns and cities post-Yolanda

Manila, Philippines - Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) with its brand Sun Cellular announce today, December 9, 2013 that as of yesterday, December 8, mobile network services in all the cities and municipalities in Visayas have been restored and reconnected after Super Typhoon Yolanda hit Visayas about one month ago.

Smart restored 100 mobile networks in Visayas

In a report submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) today, the companies were able to reestablish cellular service in 100% of all cities and municipalities of the following provinces: Aklan, Antique, Biliran, Bohol, Capiz, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte and Western Samar.

“We wish to thank key national government agencies such as the Office of the President, the National Telecommunications Commission, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine Air Force and the local governments of the affected areas for helping us repair our facilities in the most rapid way possible,” said Roland G. Pena, PLDT and Smart Technology Group Head.

“We also wish to recognize the extraordinary efforts exerted by our field personnel, particularly our network engineers, to accomplish their mission under very difficult conditions,” he added.

“Having completed the immediate task of restoration, we continue to work on further improving the quality and reach of our cellular services. We are doing so under conditions where commercial electric power is still not available in several areas or remain unstable in others, particularly in Eastern Visayas,” Pena said.

“We are also taking steps to make our facilities more disaster-resilient in anticipation of future calamities,” he said.

Several days prior to the typhoon’s landfall last November 8, Smart and DMPI already prepositioned personnel and equipment in key areas in the region for quicker mobilization, as part of the disaster preparedness program the companies.

With the help of the AFP and the NDRRMC, Smart was able to fly additional restoration crew and equipment on the earliest flights to Tacloban immediately the following morning, November 9.

Equipped with satellite phones, they immediately assessed infrastructure damages and worked with government agencies and humanitarian organizations in providing communications support for relief efforts.

The first Libreng Tawag stations powered by Smart Satellite Services were also opened for residents that day in Tacloban City and in other hard-hit areas.

In the days leading to full restoration, Smart and DMPI were able to provide about 120 satellite phones to various government and relief agencies with the support of Thuraya Satellite. More than 60 Libreng Tawag stations were also set up in many cities and municipalities in Central Visayas as well as Palawan and Metro Manila.

In addition to the satellite-powered public calling stations, Smart and DMPI were able to reactivate network signal in downtown Tacloban just two days after the disaster via a fixed cellsite setup which provided more stable coverage than a mobile facility.

After two days, on November 12, Smart Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G service was reestablished in Tacloban City, directly supporting further humanitarian relief efforts.

Meanwhile, on November 13, Smart and Vodafone Foundation engineers fired up the first post-Yolanda mobile signal in Borongan, Samar using an instant network, an ultra-portable cellsite that can fit in the trunk of a car.

A day after, the second instant network was fired up in Palo, Leyte, the provincial center for disaster response coordination for the province.

On November 16, the third instant network as well as a Multi-Equipment-On-Wheels (MEOW) set up went live to serve residents of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, one of first towns where Typhoon Yolanda made landfall, giving residents first line communication channels in the aftermath of the disaster.

To serve residents directly affected by Typhoon Yolanda, Smart and DMPI offered various services to aid in the post-disaster efforts. These include free SMS bundles (25 local and 3 international SMS per day) for 10 days for all Smart, Talk ‘N Text and Sun subscribers in specified areas.

The two companies also provided their postpaid subscribers services assistance and tied up with Twitter for receiving tweets from responding agencies via SMS, without the need for data connectivity.

Smart and PLDT also provided data links for the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) which enabled it to reopen banking services in Tacloban City on November 19 via mobile ATMs.

By December 2, the percentage of cities and municipalities reconnected crossed the 90% mark. Most of the remaining unserved areas were in the most devastated and hard-to-reach towns in Eastern Samar and Leyte.

Smart and DMPI were able to restore network coverage in these areas through various solutions, including Ericsson Network’s mini cellsites, the first deployment of such technology in the Philippines.

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