Evacuees and responders in Typhoon Mangkhut-hit Northern Luzon are now able to connect and share information with loved ones and colleagues with the help of emergency network solutions provided by Vodafone Foundation and Smart Communications Inc., a leading wireless services provider in the Philippines.
Vodafone Foundation Instant Network volunteers transport the Instant Network 3G equipment to the Philippines. The kit is compact enough to fit into four suitcases and light enough to travel on a commercial flight
The Vodafone Instant Network team was deployed to the Philippines at the request of Smart Communications to provide emergency communications support to Batanes, Benguet and Ilocos Norte, which were severely affected by Typhoon Mangkhut, known locally as Typhoon Ompong.
“Reliable communication lines are important during disasters, because we need to send updated reports on response, on victims and relief efforts,” said police officer Sandra Tongacan, who was among the first to use the Instant Wi-Fi and Charge services at the designated disaster operations and evacuation center in Barangay Tuding, Itogon, Benguet.
Mangkhut, the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines so far this year, battered Northern and Central Luzon, causing floods and landslides that killed dozens of people, damaging agriculture and toppling communication lines.
Instant Wi-Fi and Charge stations at the Itogon operations center
The Vodafone Instant Charge and Instant Wi-Fi solutions were set up in Itogon, where retrieval operations for landslide victims are also ongoing.
Vodafone Foundation deployed its portable Instant Wi-Fi solution, which can provide a robust and secure Wi-Fi environment to up to 1,500 users across an area of up 10,000 square metres, depending on the strength of the available internet connection.
Vodafone Foundation also set up an Instant Charge station, which has the capabilities to charge up to 66 phones simultaneously.
Mayor Victorio Palangdan explained how challenging it was in the aftermath of the typhoon, because power and communication lines were damaged: “We were crippled because we didn’t have communication, it was very difficult for us,” he said.
“We all know communication is of utmost importance during emergencies. Because we send reports to Manila and even abroad, our connection needs to be available all the time. We thank Smart for their help,” he continued; adding that the Instant Wi-Fi and Charge services had been helpful to policemen and rescue personnel.
The Vodafone Foundation has been a long-time partner of Smart in providing emergency communications support to residents affected by disasters. In 2012, the Vodafone Foundation deployed its Instant Network during Typhoon Pablo, marking the first time Vodafone Foundation deployed the system in a country where it did not operate. A year later, the technology also served residents affected by Super-typhoon Yolanda.
The ultra-portable Instant Network can provide cellular coverage within three to
five kilometres in radius and enable up to 80 calls and thousands of text messages to be sent simultaneously. The compact GSM equipment fits into four cases that can be carried on commercial flights, weighs less than 100 kg, and can be set up in less than 40 minutes.
Similar efforts are under way in Batanes and Ilocos Norte, which were also hard-hit by Mangkhut.
“We are happy to work with Vodafone Foundation to provide support to those who were affected by Ompong,” said PLDT* and Smart Public Affairs Head Ramon Isberto.
“These Instant Network solutions complement our stepped-up restoration of communication services in areas where typhoon damage is severe,” he added.
Andrew Dunnett, Director of the Vodafone Foundation said: “We are pleased to be working with Smart again, assisting first responders with rescue and relief efforts and supporting those whose lives have been devastated by Typhoon Mangkhut. Communications is lifesaving and we are pleased our team of Vodafone volunteers with their specialist equipment have been fully integrated into the response. Our support will continue for as long as it is required.”
Smart’s collaboration with Vodafone Foundation is part of its #SafePH advocacy, which aims to help communities reduce disaster risk using mobile technology. It is also part of Smart’s commitment to the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter, which aims to empower mobile networks to respond to disasters.
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About the Vodafone Foundation
The Vodafone Foundation's Connecting for Good programme combines Vodafone's charitable giving and technology to make a difference in the world. Globally, the Vodafone Foundation supports projects that are focused on delivering public benefit through the use of mobile technology across the areas of health, education and disaster relief. The Vodafone Foundation invests in the communities in which Vodafone operates and is at the centre of a network of global and local social investment programmes. The Vodafone Foundation Instant Network Emergency Response programme deploys people and specialised technology to provide free communications and technical support in communities affected by natural or humanitarian disaster. The team has deployed 12 times in the past eight years. The Vodafone Foundation is a UK registered charity, registered charity number 10989625.
This will be the twelfth emergency response mission for the Vodafone Foundation Instant Network team. The Instant Network was deployed in Nepal during the 2015 earthquake and in the Philippines in November 2013 during Typhoon Haiyan, where 443,000 calls were made and 1.4 million SMS were sent. A total of 2.9m calls were made using Instant Network in the Philippines, Kenya and South Sudan.
Instant Charge has also been deployed in refugee camps, including Lesbos and Samos Islands in Greece, where 84,600 devices were connected. Instant Classroom is currently benefiting thousands of children and teenagers in refugee camps across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) is a wholly owned wireless communications and digital services subsidiary of PLDT* Inc., the Philippines’ leading telecommunications company. Smart provides mobile communications services, high-speed internet connectivity, and access to digital services and content to about 60 million Filipinos, through its commercial brands Smart, TNT, and Sun. Smart also offers satellite communication services under the brand Smart World.