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Quake Damage in Japan

Paul Budde

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan rocked the northeastern portion of the coast. The quake was the strongest to hit Japan in at least a century, sending a tsunami that flooded northern towns and also reached portions of the United States, including Hawaii. The quake was followed by a 7.1-magnitude aftershock.

Impact on Internet connectivity:

Japan’s Internet performance seemed to have emerged largely unscathed, but concerns continue for the telecommunications infrastructure as the country struggles to meet power demands in a state-of-emergency. Internet intelligence firm Renesys revealed that only 100 out of the 6000 network prefixes out of Japan were temporarily out of service following the quake and tsunami. Other carriers around the region reported congestion and drops in traffic due to follow-on effects of the quake, but most websites are up and operational, and the Internet is available to support critical communications.

Another indication of the health of the Internet is traffic handled by the Japan Internet Exchange, which saw a 25Gb/s drop in traffic directly after the quake but this had picked up by the end of the day.

Overall traffic through another exchange point, JPNAP (a Layer 2 Internet exchange for large traffic volume), registered a 10% drop over its historical rates from the previous two weeks, which would suggests only minor impact.

What these statistics don’t show is the surge in traffic that follows any major event. So while the infrastructure is now delivering traditional traffic volumes, the fact there is apparently no spike in traffic usage is already an indication of some impact.

The situation may worsen however. Damage on Pacnet’s EAC cable and Pacific Crossing’s PC-1, (APCN2 is also confirmed as impacted) was the cause of the initial impact on Internet performance. Based on experience from the Taiwan quake, it is possible that lingering damage to fibers, repeaters, and landing station equipment may continue to generate new problems over the coming days and weeks, even in cable systems that survived the initial event. At present international and regional connectivity out of Japan remains intact.

Impact on telecommunications operators:

NTT East, who suffered the most damage, has raised the number of impacted lines from an initial number of 340,000 phone lines and 130,000 broadband fibre links, to 879,500 phone lines and 475,400 fibre links. Further disruptions are expected due to ongoing power outages. So far, the number of impacted mobile base stations has remained around 11,000,

but if power outages continue, there is also the likelihood that others will fail as well as they run out of backup power.

Many of the major data centres in Japan have escaped damage. A round up of potential damage to data centres by ZDNet Japan found that most are operating normally, including those that are hosting cloud services. The only exception seems to be NTT Communications’ facilities in the Tohoku region, which are no longer online as the region has lost fibre and IP VPN connectivity.

The situation is vastly different from the 26 December 2006 earthquake off the coast of Taiwan, when up to 6 regional cable systems were damaged, resulting a widespread disruption for both business and Internet services in the region.

Social media and measures by operators to help:

Japan’s operators have all implemented measures to help its users share and distribute information following the earthquake. While phone lines were congested with callers seeking information from friends and family, Japan’s operators quickly set up other forms of communications to enable users to find critical information about family and friends. All four mobile operators—NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, Softbank and E-Mobile—set up dedicated messaging boards for users to share information instead of relying on voice calls. The four mobile operators also made available a service that allows users to check whether a particular phone number is still active and on the network.

NTT East, which operates the fixed line infrastructure in the worst hit regions, waived fees for public payphones in 17 prefectures. Google also made available its Person Finder application, first introduced following the New Zealand earthquake last month, as well as a dedicated crisis response site with the latest information on the situation in Japan.

Meanwhile, individual users are turning to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter for information and communication. FON, a company which manages a large network of wi-fi hotspots, is opening up its 500,000 hotspots in Japan to web surfers for free until the country’s state of emergency comes to an end. Residents are posting videos of the quake on the CitizenTube channel on YouTube and using the service to reach out to friends and families across the world.

For information relating to the telecommunications market in Japan, see:
http://www.budde.com.au/Research/Countries/Japan/

Also see: Japan Quake and Impact on Electronics Production

This post written by Lisa Hulme-Jones, BuddeComm Senior Analyst

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication – Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located hereVisit Page
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