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Smart, Sun reconnect all towns, cities hit by ?Yolanda?

Smart Communications and Sun Cellular brand-owner Digitel Mobile Philippines Inc. (DMPI) said they have restored network services in all the cities and municipalities in Visayas that were hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda about a month ago.

In a report submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission, the companies were able to reestablish cellular service in 100 percent of all cities and municipalities of the following provinces: Aklan, Antique, Biliran, Bohol, Capiz, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte and Western Samar.

This mobile ATM of Landbank reopened in Tacloban City on Nov. 19 through data links provided by Smart and PLDT

Several days prior to the typhoon?s landfall last November 8, Smart and DMPI already prepositioned personnel and equipment in key areas in the region for quicker mobilization, as part of the disaster preparedness program the companies.

With the help of the AFP and the NDRRMC, Smart was able to fly additional restoration crew and equipment on the earliest flights to Tacloban immediately the following morning, Nov. 9.

Equipped with satellite phones, they immediately assessed infrastructure damages and worked with government agencies and humanitarian organizations in providing communications support for relief efforts.

The first Libreng Tawag stations powered by Smart Satellite Services were also opened for residents that day in Tacloban City and in other hard-hit areas.

In the days leading to full restoration, Smart and DMPI were able to provide about 120 satellite phones to various government and relief agencies with the support of Thuraya Satellite. More than 60 Libreng Tawag stations were also set up in many cities and municipalities in Central Visayas as well as Palawan and Metro Manila.

In addition to the satellite-powered public calling stations, Smart and DMPI were able to reactivate network signal in downtown Tacloban just two days after the disaster via a fixed cellsite setup which provided more stable coverage than a mobile facility.

After two days, on November 12, Smart LTE service was reestablished in Tacloban City, directly supporting further humanitarian relief efforts.

Meanwhile, on November 13, Smart and Vodafone Foundation engineers fired up the first post-Yolanda mobile signal in Borongan, Samar using an instant network, an ultra-portable cellsite that can fit in the trunk of a car.

A day after, the second instant network was fired up in Palo, Leyte, the provincial center for disaster response coordination for the province.

On Nov. 16, the third instant network as well as a Multi-Equipment-On-Wheels (MEOW) set up went live to serve residents of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, one of first towns where Typhoon Yolanda made landfall, giving residents first line communication channels in the aftermath of the disaster.

To serve residents directly affected by Typhoon Yolanda, Smart and DMPI offered various services to aid in the post-disaster efforts. These include free SMS bundles (25 local and 3 international SMS per day) for 10 days for all Smart, Talk ?N Text and Sun subscribers in specified areas.

The two companies also provided their postpaid subscribers services assistance and tied up with Twitter for receiving tweets from responding agencies via SMS, without the need for data connectivity.

Smart and PLDT also provided data links for the Landbank which enabled it to reopen banking services in Tacloban City on November 19 via mobile ATMs.

By December 2, the percentage of cities and municipalities reconnected crossed the 90 percent mark. Most of the remaining unserved areas were in the most devastated and hard-to-reach towns in Eastern Samar and Leyte.

Smart and DMPI were able to restore network coverage in these areas through various solutions, including Ericsson Network?s mini cellsites, the first deployment of such technology in the Philippines.

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