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Japan Efforts Continue, Impact Assessed

As the Japanese authorities battle to avoid a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the communications industry has been reacting to, and assessing the impact of, the earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11. (See Japan Strives to Restore Services .)

Here is the latest round-up of measures and reactions to the situation in Japan.

  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) , recognizing that the re-establishment of communications is vital for the search-and-rescue efforts in the tsunami-affected areas in northeast Japan, has sent emergency equipment to help with the recovery efforts. It has dispatched 78 Thuraya satellite phones equipped with GPS, 13 Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: IRDM) satellite phones and 37 Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network terminals, all of which come with solar panels and can be charged by car batteries. (See ITU Sends Satellite Phones to Japan.)

  • Work continues on the restoration of full subsea cable links to Japan. Pacific Crossing Ltd. notes on its website that "Connectivity on PC-1 N and PC-1 W is temporarily interrupted as a result of the Japanese earthquake. Pacific Crossing is currently inspecting the damage, and is commencing restoration activities." It adds: "Service on PC-1 S and PC-1 E is unaffected by this interruption."

  • Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), which doesn't have any manufacturing facilities in Japan, says its 200 or so staff in the country are safe in Tokyo and that it is following the advice of the Japanese government as to whether it should evacuate those personnel, though some have left the country already.

    In a statement sent to Light Reading, the company noted: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in Japan. We know rescue teams are working heroically to contain damage and people are enduring continued trauma. Alcatel-Lucent is monitoring what is happening in Japan very closely. Our focus is on ensuring the continued safety of our employees and working with our customers to deliver communication services. We have initiated a company-matched employee donation program and anticipate broad participation amongst our employees to help Japanese people get through this."

    The company also noted that it has suppliers in Japan for components such as memory and believes there will be a supply chain impact on the communications industry as a result of the disaster, though it's unclear what that impact will be. AlcaLu says it has "sufficient inventories of all components to cover our immediate needs," and that "like any company, we are reviewing our contingency plans and alternative sources should we need them."

  • Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) says it doesn't foresee "any significant impact in our ability to supply product to our customers due to the events in Japan." Specifically regarding the availability of Bismaleimide Triazine (BT) resin, a chemical used to make integrated circuit substrates, the company says it uses "either BT-based or epoxy-based laminate materials in our chipset packages. To account for any potential disruption in BT supply, we believe our use of buffer stock and adjustments to our near-term material mix will enable us to mitigate potential supply disruptions to our customer base."

    Expressing the sentiments of everyone watching events unfold in Japan, Qualcomm noted that it is "deeply saddened by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last week. Our thoughts are with the people of Japan as they cope with the loss and destruction caused by this natural disaster."

  • The broader impact on the supply of industrial components has been assessed in this Reuters report.

  • U.S. cable operator Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. are the latest service providers to enable its customers to contact Japan for free. (See Cox Offers Free Wired/Wireless Calls to Japan.)

  • Heavy Reading senior analyst Stan Hubbard believes the current situation in Japan should act as a wake-up call for service providers around the world to implement crisis management strategies. (See Does Telecom Have a Crisis Management Plan?)

    — Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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