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Philippines, Japan sign agreement on disaster communications

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The Philippines and Japan—along with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)—recently signed a cooperation agreement for the development of a Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit (MRDU), which can be deployed in areas to provide broadband communications before, during, and after natural disasters.

Research and development (R&D) on the MDRU started in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 with the support of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan (MIC), Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), and other Japanese ICT organizations. It is a unit that can be quickly deployed to restore communications in communities in the aftermath of a disaster. The unit is self-reliant running on its own power source, and/or is able to harness other power sources such as power generators or local active power lines. The unit is in its final R&D phase.

The MDRU is approximately the same size as a 12-foot-long shipping container. It is equipped with an array of communications equipment, servers and storage devices, and is designed to bring not only a communications infrastructure but also data center functions to a disaster-stricken area in a very short time.

According to Toshikazu Sakano, project leader of the MDRU R&D: “Within approximately one hour of being set up, the MDRU is operational and providing services such as harnessing the wireless LAN of nearby areas to enable people in the affected area to make phone calls. It also efficiently supports on-site evacuation shelter operations.”

The MDRU will complement the R&D for an all-weather communications system not dependent on cellular networks, which is currently being developed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on the request by President Aquino in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Undersecretary Louis Casambre of the DOST’s Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) expressed his appreciation of Japan’s support for the Philippines. “The MDRU will go a long way in the development of the Resilient Communications System we are currently working on, as soon as it is developed with intend to position them in several key areas and be readily deployed as soon as they are needed.” Casambre said.

The ITU—the third signatory to the cooperation agreement—provided assistance immediately after Typhoon Yolanda, offering essential telecommunications equipment needed in the relief efforts. The MDRU project will have an initial budget of CHF 217,711 (P10,654,413). Project management and administration of the project will be provided by the ITU.

The unit will be donated by the Japanese Government, with the support of the ITU. It will be tested and deployed in San Remigio, Cebu—a town that still lacks an ICT infrastructure after the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda.