Post-quake, Haiti Residents Turn to Mobile Nets

Tuesday’s 7.0 earthquake in Haiti knocked out the country’s only direct submarine cable system, according to TeleGeography, leaving it to rely largely on satellite communications and damaged mobile networks for international communications. The undersea fiber-optic link has a transmission capacity of 1.92 terabytes per second and connects Port-au-Prince to the Bahamas and then to the U.S. Because the link came online two years ago, though, much of Haiti’s international communications still depends on satellite systems that have likely been strained in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

While most Internet service providers are still operational, a lack of electricity has limited fixed-line access for the majority of the country’s residents. Digicel, Haiti’s largest mobile network operator, said its network was damaged but is still operational. The carrier is trying to send technicians to the island to ease congestion and allow more users on the network. And emergency satellite firms such as France’s TSF are establishing secure Internet and voice systems for aid agencies, as well as setting up call centers for those affected by the earthquake.

In related news, T-Mobile USA said that it will allow free international long distance calls to Haiti through January 31, 2010, and retroactive to the earthquake on January 12, 2010. The company said that T-Mobile customers who may already be in Haiti will be able to roam on T-Mobile’s partner networks in Haiti (operated locally in Haiti under the names Voila and Digicel) free-of-charge through the end of the month.

Image courtesy Flickr user Victor Chapa.

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