Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Converge planning to bury cables as disaster-proofing measure following ‘Odette’

Fiber broadband provider Converge ICT Solutions Inc. said it is working towards further protecting its nationwide fiber network from natural calamities, following the challenges in restoration brought about by the devastation of Typhoon Odette.

In this photo provided by Converge, the company said it has doubled its installation and repair teams in Cebu for speedier restoration and repair in viable areas

“We’ve had a lot of hard-earned lessons from super typhoon Odette, particularly on ‘disaster-proofing’ the network. With downed poles and infrastructure still a problem in Cebu today, there are challenges in restoring connection. We want to make sure that we will be better prepared in the face of future calamities,” said Converge CEO Dennis Anthony Uy.

As the fiber lines of Converge are connected through electric poles, and some streets are still impassable, last-mile connection to the homes of subscribers have been difficult to establish. Although Converge’s own network equipment is ready for service, the infrastructure of utility companies that are needed to bridge the connection subscribers’ homes are still being repaired.

In response, Converge said it is planning to use its micro-trenching technology to put key connectivity elements underground, doing away with the need to rely on poles which are prone to damage during typhoons.

“In the face of increasing risks brought about by climate change, we will ensure that we establish resilient connectivity by using the latest technology to put our fiber infrastructure underground where it will not be exposed to various elements that can damage the network. We look forward to working with local and national government agencies to ensure that we can roll out more underground cables at the soonest possible time,” added Uy.

Additionally, given the reliance of the network on third-party power suppliers, Converge said it has secured additional power generation sets and fuel storage to make its network self-sufficient. The company also deployed satellite phones for the use of the network restoration teams.

For its manpower response, Converge said it has doubled its installation and repair teams in Cebu for speedier restoration and repair in viable areas.

Last year, Converge has also put in place redundancy loops from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao to make its network more resilient. A redundancy loop is a network structure that fortifies the primary route of the network by adding a secondary path for data to pass through in case of a failure in the main route. This makes sure there’s no service downtime and subscribers’ connection to the fiber backbone remains unhampered.

Converge said it has also established a dedicated Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Team to quickly respond to emergencies.

Dapa, Surigao del Norte mayor Elizabeth Matugas (in orange, center) joins the Converge installation team to check on the set-up of the VSAT terminals in typhoon-ravaged Siargao Island
Photo from Converge

While communication networks are still being restored, Converge has diversified ways to establish alternative means of connection: In the typhoon’s landing point, Siargao, Converge immediately deployed very small aperture terminals (VSAT) or satellite connectivity to provide broadband service to the island’s communities.

Converge has also installed Wi-Fi hubs and charging stations to the affected communities through partnerships with local government units (LGUs) including Mandaue City, Cebu City, Talisay, and Lapu-Lapu in Cebu province; Tagbilaran City in Bohol; and will roll out in more affected areas.

The broadband firm said is closely watching network activity and coordinating with LGUs and utility companies to ensure last-mile network connection can be restored to the homes of subscribers in Cebu.

Meanwhile, pro-rated rebates will be given to subscribers in Cebu who have lost their service due to the typhoon. Converge said has also temporarily suspended the disconnection of service due to non-payment to assist subscribers who are still trying to recover from the devastating typhoon.


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