As in every major disaster, communications networks quickly showed their inherent weakness in times of greatest need. Japan's NTT Communications reported outages affecting Internet voice data that relies on IP-VPN technology.
In a brief statement, the operator apologized for the "trouble and inconvenience," following the string of earthquakes and significant aftershocks that rattled nerves and buildings throughout much of Japan. Some communication services are no longer available, NTT said, and telephone service, particularly long-distance service, is showing strain as well.
Service disruptions have been reported by all three of the major mobile operators in Japan, according to BusinessWeek.
This prompted me to ask on Twitter about which technologies are available that can help the mobile network cope with these problem.
Here are few approaches:
I blogged earlier about Multihop Cellular Networks (MCN) and ODMA. These technologies have their own limitations and problems and I have not heard of anything more about them being standardised or adopted.
Another post was on Ad-Hoc Networks that can be formed in case of failures resulting in Mobile devices being able to communicate directly without the need for network or base stations. The slight problem is that this approach replies on WiFi being available which may not always be the case.
A colleague suggested that in Tetra, Direct Mode of operation is available that is intended for situations like these. A presentation is embedded below:
Steven Crowley on twitter suggested that 802.16m has already started working in this direction. I got a related presentation on that which is embedded below:
Finally, Kit Kilgour mentioned about DSAC (Domain Specific Access Control) whose intention is to discontinue the voice service in emergency (to avoid congestion) but continue the packet domain normally. I have not looked at DSAC on this blog but in LTE instead Service Specific Access Control (SSAC) is used since LTE is PS only. See the blog entry here.
Please feel free to add any more information on this topic in the comments.