System helps in disaster communicaton

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WHEN disasters strike, communication lines are among the first to go down. But with the Movable and Deployable Resource ICT Unit (MDRU) developed in Japan, restoring it can be done in an hour.

The Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) turned over to the town of San Remigio in northern Cebu yesterday the MDRU, which would allow people in a disaster area to make phone calls and connect to the Internet even when their telecommunications network is down.

It is the first deployment of the system outside Japan.

The project is in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology 7 through the Central Visayas Information Sharing Network Foundation Inc (CVISNET). Project cost is at P10.6 million, which is funded by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Japan (MIC) and managed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), said CVISNET executive director Jeffrey N. Llanto.

MDRU, being mobile, can be quickly deployed to restore communications in communities in the aftermath of a disaster.

“The MDRU can be used within approximately one hour after being set up,” according to NTT Network Innovation Laboratories executive director Atsushi Takahara.

The unit is self-reliant, running on its own power source, and is also able to harness other power sources such as power generators or local active power lines.

It comes in a 12-foot-long shipping container, NTT officials said, and is equipped with an array of communications equipment, servers and storage devices.

Japan quake

MDRU was born out of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which disrupted communication lines in the eastern part of the country.

Takahara said the research and development of the project began in March 2012 with the support of MIC, with the goal of prototyping a movable and deployable ICT resource unit that can provide local ICT services at disaster affected areas instantly and flexibly.

Two years after, in May 2014, the Philippines and Japan, along with ITU, signed a cooperation agreement for the development of MDRU.

Under the agreement, Takahara said NTT will conduct a feasibility study of the MDRU applicability in the Philippines. It identified San Remigio as the area for testing, being one of the hardest hit areas by typhoon Yolanda in November 2013 out of the 172 municipalities affected by the storm.

In San Remigio, communication lines came back three days after the typhoon, according to mayor Mariano R. Martinez, but added that it was only restored partially.

DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo said the move to adopt the MDRU was in response to President Benigno Aquino III’s call to DOST to research available technology for an all-weather communication system, with MDRU addressing the need.

“The MDRU will go a long way in the development of the Resilient Communications System we are currently working on, as soon as it is developed with intend to position them in several key areas and be readily deployed as they are needed,” said DOST Information and Communications Technology Office Undersecretary Louis Casambre in a statement.

Montejo said there are no exact number of MDRUs to be rolled out. “(What I know) is we cannot afford not to have one…With the recent disasters (hitting the country), we see a need for a new communication platform,” he said.

In San Remigio, the equipment is set up in the town’s Community e-Center, propagating Wi-Fi signal to the entire municipal hall. A point to point wireless connection is also provided to the San Remigio National High School.

Sun.Star Cebu
By Jeandie O. Galolo

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