March 02, 2011, 9:38 AM —
The 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch at 12.51pm on Tuesday February 22 caused widespread disruption to telecommunication networks.
Telecom, TelstraClear, Vodafone and 2degrees have posted regular media updates -- Telecom sent its first update at 1.20pm last Tuesday -- most of which have been posted directly onto the Computerworld site. Here is a summary of what unfolded.
Following the earthquake priority for the operators was on ensuring their employees were safe. For Telecom, which has 1600 staff in Christchurch, it was not possible to account for all staff until two days after the earthquake struck.
Cellphone towers were seriously damaged, and massive power outages meant that cellsites and telephone cabinets immediately switched onto battery back up power. Calls to the emergency 111 contact centre -- which is located in Christchurch - were diverted to Telecom's contact centre in Wellington by 3.20pm on Tuesday. Christchurch customers were told to keep trying the service if they were having trouble connecting, as these calls were prioritised.
Meanwhile mobile customers around the country were asked via media releases, website updates and social networking sites to restrict calls and mobile data downloads, in order to ease the load on the networks. This request remained in place until 5pm on Friday. "We removed that message from the releases (on Friday afternoon), we weren't actively encouraging people to use the network but we were confident that the network was in a state that it would handle increased load (which it did)," says Vodafone spokesperson Matt East.
By the weekend the networks were stable however there continue to be localised issues and faults. TelstraClear says its network remained intact following the earthquake, although 70 of its 180 TelstraClear cabinets were affected by power outages and the telco estimates around 25,000 of its cable modem customers were without full services in the immediate aftermath.
"At present we estimate around 9000 customers are without full services -- again, localised damage will be the main cause," says TelstraClear spokesperson Diane Robinson.