Telco networks affected by Canterbury earthquake

Telcos urge - essential calls only , text don't call, save network capacity for emergency calls

Telecommunication companies have provided updates on how their networks have been affected by the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch just before 1pm local time Tuesday.

As at 7pm, Telecom said its 111 emergency calls service is stable, and that the Christchurch 111 call centre has been diverted to Wellington. However if people have problems connecting, they should keep trying as 111 calls are prioritised.

Telecom says that from 3am on Wednesday there will be free payphone calling available from 280 payphones in the Christchurch area for local, national and mobile calls.

Throughout the afternoon network operators have reported that power outages and network congestion has caused loss of service. Telecom, Vodafone, 2degrees and TelstraClear have urged mobile customers around the country to text, not call, unless it is essential. This is to minimise stress on the networks and to conserve back up power.

Telecom says that if power is out in people's homes, wireless landlines will not be working as base stations require power, however analogue non-wireless landline handsets will work without power.

Meanwhile Google has set up a 'person finder' website which enables users to share information about people in Christchurch today.

Updates posted throughout this afternoon:

Vodafone 5pm

Mobile Coverage

The earthquake has affected power supply to a number of cell sites in the greater Christchurch area which means a large number of customers will be without coverage.

We are focusing on restoring our core network services and a number of actions are underway to resume service.

Network Congestion

Vodafone recommends customers if possible avoid making a call on the mobile network, and to try sending a TXT instead. However, if the situation is an emergency, don't hesitate to make that call.

Current Impact for Fixed Line and Broadband Customers

A number of customers will be experiencing a loss of fixed line and broadband. This is widespread across Canterbury.

We are working with the local power company and Civil Defence to maintain service.

Telecom 4.50pm

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. The Christchurch 111 call centre has been successfully diverted to Wellington and 111 calls are being prioritised.

All current mobile site outages are due to loss of power and many other sites are working on back-up power. This back-up power is limited as it is reliant on generators and batteries, so prolonged power issues will mean more sites are likely to go down over night.

To minimise the stress on the network and to conserve back-up power we ask people to only use their phones for emergency calls.

We are working to maintain services and adding extra capacity to the mobile networks. Our primary objective is to restore communications to emergency services, civil defence and health and safety organisations.

TelstraClear 4pm

- Our Christchurch call centre has been evacuated and all staff have been sent home. This means customers trying to contact our call centres may experience delays.

- Widespread power outages remain in Christchurch.

- As a result around 100 of our cabinets are running on back up power. Our voice services are still operating, except where there is damage to phone lines, individual premises or power is lost to premises

- Our core infrastructure is operating

- Around 25,000 of our cable modem customers are without services due to loss of electricity

- Customers without power are advised to use corded phones rather than cordless phones to be able to get voice services

- TelstraClear mobile customers are advised to use text messaging to contact friends and family in Canterbury

- TelstraClear has set up two hardship lines for Christchurch and wider Canterbury customers. Residential customers requiring special assistance, such as free landline to mobile call diversions, can call us on 0508 24 24 11. Business customers can call 0508 24 24 12 should they need assistance with their services.

Telecom 3.20pm

While much of Telecom's network in Christchurch remains operable, there is significant congestion and due to widespread power outages much of our network is currently working off backup power.

To minimise the stress on the network and to conserve back-up power we ask people to only use their phones for emergency calls.

111 services are stable. The Christchurch 111 call centre has been successfully diverted to Wellington, and a back up site in Palmerston North is on standby if required.

We are working to maintain services and adding extra capacity to the mobile networks.

Our primary objective is to restore communications to emergency services, civil defence and health and safety organisations.

In addition, due to the loss of power in customers' homes, wireless landline phones will not be working as base stations require power. If customers have analogue non-wireless landline handsets they will still work without power, so they are encouraged to use those for landline calls.

Telecom has moved to enable free calling from 280 payphones in and around Christchurch for local, national and mobile calls. Free payphone calling will be live from 3am on Wednesday 23 February.

2degrees 3.15pm

- We have 71 of 98 cell sites on back up battery.

- There are 3 sites not carrying traffic at all, but we haven't yet physically inspected them to assess damage and estimate restoration.

- We've sustained damage to our switch room, but it is running on generator as planned.

- Our staff have not been injured.

- Our network is operating, with some voice calls to Telecom congested (likely as people try to call fixed lines). Traffic to Vodafone is not as congested.

- We have tripled our calling capacity, but still find call volumes increasing.

- Please stress that people should make essential calls only.

Telecom 3pm, via Twitter

Please keep ALL calls nationwide to minimum to save capacity for emergency services. Txt instead if you can

Telecom 2.17pm

Some network sites have been badly damaged and are not working, and others are operating on battery back up power.

To minimise the stress on the network and to conserve back-up power we ask people to only use their phones for emergency calls.

Vodafone 1.57pm

We are currently prioritising the safety of our people and our stores. Our core network is functioning as per normal, although we have sustained damage to approx eight sites and have a large number running on battery.

There is heavy congestion on the network and we encourage people to text rather than call in order not to overload.

TelstraClear 1.54pm

- Our core infrastructure in the region is operating

- There are widespread power outages in Christchurch

- As a result we have around 100 cabinets without power. These are currently running on back-up power.

- This means our voice services are still operating, except where there is damage to phone lines, individual premises or power is lost to premises

- Around half of our cable modem customers are without services. This may be due to power outages or damage to premises.

- As soon as it is safe we will have technicians inspecting the network.

2degrees 1.35pm

- 73 of the 98 2degrees cellsites do not have power, but are operating with battery backup.

- Our switch (which controls traffic) is running on generator.

- These backups have performed as planned so our network is operating for calls.

- None of 2degrees' staff have been injured in the quake.

Telecom 1.20pm

Telecom is working intensively to understand which services have been affected by today's earthquake and get these restored as soon as possible. Our thoughts are with the people of Canterbury. We will provide regular updates as more information becomes available.

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