Mobile phone outages reported after Japan quake

Japan's 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it spawned on Friday disrupted communications while killing an unknown number of people and causing major damage.

Japan's 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami on Friday disrupted communications while killing an unknown number of people and causing major damage to many buildings, roads and transportation systems.

Early reports didn't indicate that wireless communications were completely crippled, although Japan's three largest mobile phone operators told Bloomberg that their services were disrupted across many regions in Japan. Those three carriers -- NTT DoCoMo, KDDI Corp. and Softbank Corp. -- described wireless systems as being in either poor or bad condition after the major quake .

Those three carriers and a fourth, NTT East, set up special disaster bulletin boards to post text messages for others to read on the Web.

NTT East allowed messages of up to 100 Japanese characters to be posted on a special Web site from areas within part of Japan though they can be read anywhere on the Web. Focus on Travel News said the messages could be seen by anyone who entered the writer's phone number.

The text bulletin boards were being used in addition to an array of social media sites on the Web.

Google also placed a warning on its main search page: "Tsunami Alert for New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, and others. Waves expected over the next few hours, caused by 8.9 earthquake in Japan."

Sendai Airport is swept by a tsunami after an earthquake, in northeastern Japan. (Image: Reuters)

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

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