Telecom says network resilient in Canterbury, but disruption continues

Update 5.45pm - Telecom to deploy more generators to city overnight

Ongoing power issues continue to affect the delivery of telecommunication services in the Christchurch area following yesterday's earthquake, which struck shortly before 1pm.

As at 5.45pm today Telecom advised some of its mobile sites remain on back up power, and that it is bringing in an additional 33 generators overnight, as well as three COWs (Cell Sites on Wheels) to help boost mobile coverage. In addition it is providing Civil Defence with 150 solar power charges for mobile devices being used by rescue workers.

Vodafone says it is deploying generators to cellsites around the city, but this is hampered by difficulties moving around the city.

It advises that customers sending texts between the three networks (Vodafone, Telecom and 2Degrees) may experience some delays in texts getting through, but Vodafone expects any backlog to be cleared over the next few hours.

Kordia says its networks and services in Christchurch are operational, and Orcon is asking customers to be careful about calling and not overload the voice network.

Enable Networks says most of its company's issues are around the power outages. FX Networks says that the company's backbone has been unaffected, although the handover to Telecom is potentially fragile. Meanwhile TelstraClear says all its staff are now safe and accounted for.

Telecom 5.45pm

While restoration of mains power in some parts of Christchurch has meant some mobile sites that were running on back-up power are now back running as normal, the network is still affected by ongoing power issues in other areas of the city and physical disruption caused by yesterday’s earthquake.

Our advice remains to minimise use of mobile phones, and for people to use text messages instead of calls when possible to free up the network for emergency response workers and to minimise the drain on backup batteries and generators.

Telecom is re-deploying generators to sites still without mains power, and also bringing in an additional 33 generators overnight.

We continue to intensively monitor network capacity and performance, with a particular focus on 111 services and key emergency response sites. Loss of mains power continues to be the central issue affecting our network.

Telecom is bringing in three additional COWs (Cell Sites on Wheels) to help boost mobile coverage and capacity to support ongoing relief work in key emergency response areas, including the Civil Defence headquarters at the City Art Gallery. We are also providing Civil Defence with 150 solar power chargers for phones and other mobile devices and mobile phones to rescue workers as they arrive in the region.

Telecom’s contact centre operations have been fully migrated to Hamilton.

Our technicians are prioritising restoration work on services required by emergency response teams, and those related to medical locations and services. This work is being hampered by difficulties moving around the city and Civil Defence restrictions.

Telecom has made three WiFi Hotspots in Christchurch available for free. These WiFi sites are at Telecom Riccarton Mall, Café Zero (Cashmere Rd), and the Westpac Centre (Addington).

Customers with friends or family with a prepaid Telecom mobile can call 0800 32 32 32 and top up their prepaid credit on their behalf.

Vodafone 5pm

Vodafone is continuing to bring its cell sites in the east of the city back online after the Christchurch earthquake. The company is deploying generators to the sites which are currently without power, but this work is being hampered by difficulties moving around the city.

Customers sending TXTs between the three networks (Vodafone, Telecom and 2Degrees) may experience some delays in those TXTs getting through, but Vodafone expects any backlog to be cleared over the next few hours.

The company’s earlier advice requesting customers to save their phones for emergency calls, and use txt for non-critical communications, still stands. Vodafone also asks that customers limit mobile data usage (Facebook, Twitter, video/picture messaging, email) as this puts strain on the network and may hamper rescue efforts.

Vodafone also suggests that customers leave a temporary message on their voicemail to let callers know the time and date, location and that they are OK. This provides some reassurance should mobile phone batteries go flat given the difficulties with power supply.

Telecom 3.25pm

Telecom is bringing in three additional COWs (Cell Sites on Wheels) to help boost mobile coverage and capacity to support ongoing relief work in key emergency response areas, including the Civil Defence headquarters at the City Art Gallery.

We’re doing everything we can to bring in additional power generators and fuel to keep sites using backup power up and running.

Telecom is starting a campaign to collect analogue landline phones from around the country to distribute to people in Christchurch without power who only have cordless landline phones which are reliant on power. These ‘old fashioned’ corded analogue phones plug straight into a jack-point and don’t require mains power. We are asking people to drop spare analogue phones in to any Telecom store during retail opening hours. These phones will be distributed to those in need in Christchurch.

Vodafone, 12pm

Vodafone’s mobile network in the Canterbury region continues to be operational but due to the current demand on telecommunications we are experiencing some congestion.

Power supply to the west of the Christchurch CBD has been restored but there is no current restore time for power in eastern parts of the city due to the extensive damage to supply infrastructure. Many of our sites in that area are currently working on back-up power and others are currently off the air due to exhausted back-up power sources. Generators have begun to arrive, sites are already being brought back online with further sites being connected as the morning progresses. Additional mobile cell sites are on their way to the region to be used where necessary.

We ask customers to save their phones for emergency calls, and use txt for non-critical communications. We also ask that customers limit mobile data usage (Facebook, Twitter, video/picture messaging, email) as this puts strain on the network and may hamper rescue efforts.

Vodafone continues to work closely with Civil Defence, government agencies, other telecommunications providers and utilities to restore communications and provide assistance. Ongoing updates of the situation are also available on Vodafone’s website and Forum.

Telecom, 11.45am

Disruption to landline and mobile services in Christchurch continues, and widespread power outages mean large parts of the network are still working off backup power. The mobile network remains significantly affected. A number of cell sites are inoperative with others still heavily congested.

Our advice remains to minimise use of mobile phones, and for people to use text messages instead of calls when possible to free up the network for emergency response workers and to minimise the drain on backup batteries and generators.

We also ask customers nationwide to refrain from making audio conference calls to preserve this facility for emergency service personnel.

Our focus remains on restoring and maintaining mobile cell sites in the CBD, so survivors trapped in the rubble who do have mobile phones can continue to keep in contact with rescue teams. All central city cell sites that are operational have been connected to generators to keep them running.

We have deployed two COWs (Cell Sites on Wheels) to critical areas to boost mobile coverage and we are looking to deploy additional COWs from around the country. We are also deploying technicians from around New Zealand to assist in the restoration of telecommunication services in the Canterbury region.

We continue to intensively monitor network capacity and performance, with a particular focus on 111 services and key emergency response sites.

111 services remain stable and available and any issues connecting to 111 are likely to be due to network disruption due to damage, power outages or congestion. People trying to contact 111 should try again if they experience issues connecting. 111 calls are being prioritised.

Kordia, update 11.10am

The good news is that Kordia’s networks and services in the Christchurch area are all operational, and we are working closely with affected customers both in Christchurch and nationwide to ensure the stability of their own networks and the ongoing provision of critical communications services.

Orcon has posted this on their website: "We have been able to maintain power to our Christchurch network with a generator overnight. Currently all services are operational, but we still ask you exercise restraint calling so as not to overload the voice network. We will update our network status as developments arise."

As previously noted, all NZ phone networks are under strain at the moment. Please try to restrict calls to emergency use only.

TelstraClear, update 10.55am

All of our Christchurch staff have now been contacted and all are confirmed as safe. Our Christchurch buildings remain closed. It will take some time for engineers to gain access to our buildings with their priority being on assisting search and rescue efforts.

We have around 60 of our cabinets running on batteries. The majority of cabinets are either reaching the end of their battery power, or have lost battery power. We are working to re-charge batteries with generators. This work is being hampered by difficulties for contractors in being able to move around the city.

As power is returned to the city the number of cabinets without power will continue to fall. The priority on restoring cabinets is: residential cabinets supporting customers on our medical registry, cabinets supporting businesses and then other residential cabinets.

Around 16,000 of our customers on our HFC network are without services. Customers without power are being advised to use corded phones rather than cordless phones to be able to get voice services.

Our hardship lines have been reactivated for Christchurch and Canterbury customers. Residential customers requiring special assistance, such as free landline to mobile call diversions, can call us on 0508 24 24 11 (CH CH 11). Business customers can call 0508 24 24 12 (CH CH 12) should they need assistance with their services.

Enable Networks update 9.45am

Enable Networks CEO Steve Fuller says most of the company’s issues are around the power outages in Christchurch.

“There are no obvious signs of a break in the network but we are analysing and working through that now,” he says.

FX Networks update 9am

FX Networks managing director Murray Jurgeleit says the company’s backbone has been unaffected so far by the quake, though a few tails have been lost.

“We’re doing inspections today where we can but our network is up and running,” he says.

“We’re also putting in back-up wireless links today.

“All of our Christchurch staff are fine.”

He says, however, that FXN’s Telecom handover is potentially fragile.

The company uses Telecom for many of its customer tails.

“There are potential issues with one of Telecom’s buildings, so we’re putting in a back-up plan.”

Telecom update, 9am

Our infrastructure has proven resilient overnight, however disruption to landline and mobile services in Christchurch continues, and widespread power outages mean large parts of the network are still working off backup power.

Overnight we have focused our efforts on restoring and maintaining cell sites in the CBD, so survivors trapped in the rubble who do have mobile phones can continue to keep in contact with rescue teams. All central city cell sites that are operational have been connected to generators to keep them running.

We continue to intensively monitor network capacity and performance, with a particular focus on 111 services and key emergency response sites.

111 services remain stable and available and any issues connecting to 111 are likely to be due to network disruption due to damage, power outages or congestion. People trying to contact 111 should try again if they experience issues connecting. 111 calls are being prioritised.

Mobile performance has improved as people heed calls to limit non-essential mobile use. Many network sites are working on back-up power and this back-up power is limited as it is reliant on generators and batteries, so prolonged mains power issues will mean more sites are likely to go down as back-up batteries and generators run down.

We have deployed two COW (Cell Sites on Wheels) to critical areas to boost mobile coverage and we are looking to deploy additional COWs from around the country. We are also deploying technicians from around New Zealand to assist in the restoration of telecommunication services in the Canterbury region.

Ongoing network restoration work will be subject to civil defence and safety requirements.

To minimise the stress on the network and to conserve back-up power we ask people to continue only using their phones for emergency calls. We are providing further mobile phone devices to rescue workers as they arrive in the region. It’s important that we maintain integrity of the network to enable them to do ther job. For residents of Christchurch, 260 payphones in and around Christchurch are enabled with free calling for local, national and mobile calls.

People without power in their homes will not be able to use cordless landline phones, as base stations require power. If customers have non-cordless landline phones that plug directly into the wall and do not require power, they should use them instead.

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