MWC: Award for earthquake response

The top award at the Global Mobile Awards, presented in Barcelona yesterday, went to three Japanese operators for their "spirit of collaboration, technological ingenuity and human determination in the face of a disaster of immeasurable proportion".

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday, industry body GSMA named Japanese mobile operators KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile as joint recipients of the 2012 GSMA Chairman's Award. The Chairman's Award, established in 1996, is the GSMA's most prestigious award and recognises outstanding contribution to the growth and development of mobile communications around the world. This year's award recognises KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile for their efforts in responding to and driving the recovery from last year's devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake in Japan. "This year we have chosen to recognise not one organisation, but three that together, reflected an astonishing spirit of collaboration, technological ingenuity and human determination in the face of a disaster of immeasurable proportion," commented Franco Bernabe, Chairman of the GSMA and Chairman and CEO of Telecom Italia Group. "It is to the eternal credit of our three mobile operator members in Japan – KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile – that the response during a period of absolute chaos was resolute, systematic and swift in scale and efficiency."

The catastrophic earthquake and resulting tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and forced 470,000 people to evacuate. As well as the vast and tragic human toll, this catastrophe caused massive destruction to critical infrastructure nationally in Japan as well as internationally. The country's communications infrastructure was greatly impacted, with more than 14,000 base station facilities damaged, millions of circuits destroyed, 65,000 telephone poles collapsed, 6,300 kilometres of aerial cable damaged and more than 40 operator premises destroyed or submerged.
Against this backdrop, immediately, the three operators deployed hundreds of emergency antennas, often in dangerous circumstances, such as in potentially radioactive areas, with a demanding schedule to restore services and connect people.

"In presenting this award we offer the respect and admiration of the GSMA and the entire industry, along with our prayers and sympathies for the people of Japan as they approach the first anniversary of the tragedy," continued Bernabe. "It is KDDI's honour to receive this award with two colleague operators. The restoration work from the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami were so tough that we were only able to achieve it by the great efforts of the people of our partner companies as well as those at KDDI. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to them," said Takashi Tanaka, President of KDDI. "A portion of our mobile phone service was disrupted by the earthquake, which greatly inconvenienced our customers. Committing all available resources to restore the damaged facilities, we resumed almost all of the disrupted services by the end of April, approximately six weeks after the earthquake. In addition, based on lessons learned from the disaster, we also established new disaster countermeasures, most of which were in place as of this January. Going forward, DoCoMo will continue its efforts to ensure the availability of mobile communications during disasters for the convenience and peace of mind of its customers," said Ryuji Yamada, President and Chief Executive Officer of NTT DoCoMo.

"Each time I hear about people in the disaster-affected areas, I am struck with a renewed appreciation for just how telecommunications is as a lifeline connecting people. Throughout Softbank we have reaffirmed that maintaining the communications network is our social responsibility, and we are working to develop a more sophisticated network," said Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of Softbank Mobile.

GSMA launches Disaster Response Programme

In light of last year's crisis in Japan, as well as those in other countries such as Chile, Haiti and Pakistan, the GSMA has launched a Disaster Response Programme. This programme will identify how mobile operators can support each other, improve resilience among disaster-affected networks and outline how the mobile industry can best help on the ground following a disaster. Through this global initiative, the GSMA will develop a blueprint to strengthen collaboration between mobile ecosystem members, improve network preparedness and restoration, and provide more effective and coordinated support to humanitarian organisations and populations impacted by crisis.

"Mobile operators, such as KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile, have already demonstrated real leadership in their disaster response efforts," said Bernabe. "We believe that this programme will provide a significant opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships and to build new bridges between mobile operators and the humanitarian community which in turn will result in an impactful and coordinated response when it's most urgently needed." Through research and engagement with mobile and humanitarian stakeholders, the GSMA will build a community where it can share best practices and create a robust, coordinated response mechanism to harness the power of the mobile network. The Disaster Response Programme will also make recommendations on the most effective support that the industry can provide to mobile operators, humanitarian organisations and affected populations.