The theme of this year’s GSMA Disaster Response workshop at Mobile World Congress is partnerships in preparation for the next disaster. The release of this case study is timely as it focuses on the partnerships that the Vodafone Foundation has established that help facilitate the deployment of its Instant Network.
Following a disaster, critical infrastructure issues affecting a mobile network often include a loss of cell sites due to damage to the site itself and lack of power. Additionally, in the aftermath of a disaster quite often logistics and transport are also challenges and access to affected areas can be practically impossible. One of the fastest methods of restoring networks is therefore the rapid deployment of temporary and portable cell sites. The deployment of such temporary cells can either reduce local network congestion or plug gaps in a damaged network. Quite apart from need to restore the mobile network for the affected populations, there is a need to support emergency responders also. It was this need to have an ultra-portable technical solution that pre-empted the development of the Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Network programme.
The equipment is based on a no-frills base transceiver station developed jointly by original vendor Huawei and Vodafone Group Technology Networks in Madrid. The transceiver is packed into four robust boxes making it easy to transport via commercial air services – a critical element in a sudden on-set disaster. The system can be deployed by trained personnel in less than 40 minutes. As part of the Instant Network Programme, the Vodafone Volunteer program was launched in order to develop a network of highly trained global network of emergency responders capable of deploying the Instant Network and other mobile technology that will enable relief work. Employees who complete training become part of an international network of emergency response volunteers ready to deploy at the onset of a disaster.
The Instant Network has been deployed in multiple locations throughout the last three years and the case study details a number of these. The most critical deployment was in the Philippines last November in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. This was done in partnership with Smart and throughout the 29 days the unit was live in two locations in the Visayas, this partnership facilitated almost half a million calls and 1.5 million SMS messages. Mr Ramon Isberto, Head of Public Affairs at Smart said that ”network access through the Vodafone Instant Network calmed people down and the simple fact that the sense of isolation was broken brought joy to the people in the area’’. This case study throws a spotlight on the growing issue of connectivity as aid and the need for disaster affected populations to contact each other and loved ones.