This article was published 15 years ago

Earthquake damages wireless communication infrastructure in Haiti but still operational

Haiti earthquake Port au Prince
Several buildings in the Haitian capitol of Port-au-Prince are destroyed following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake – Image credit: Vicente Raimundo EU/ECHO via Flickr

Haiti’s population relies heavily on its wireless network as 30% of the population use cellphones to communicate. Two percent of population have government-operated landline service, which is considered the lowest penetration of landline service in the western hemisphere.

Expensive calling rates and unreliable service are factors for low rates.

After a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake struck the region, cellphone service is spotty but remains functional.

Digicel Haiti, the first and most popular wireless voice network in Haiti, confirmed in a press release that the network is still functioning but the damage is unknown.

“Digicel is sending in a team of people to Haiti early on Wednesday to assist in whatever way possible with the relief efforts and to assess the impact on its communications infrastructure which incurred damage”, the press release stated.

A general consul to the Dominican Republic in the capitol tells European news outlet Agencia EFE that the opposite is occurring; that Digicel has “been ineffective, having [its communication towers destroyed].”

Voilà communications, formally ComCEL (Communication Cellulaire d’Haiti), was online after the initial earthquake and the aftershocks but the wireless carrier was forced to shut down its main telephone switch for several hours “to maintain its integrity until our generators and cooling systems were back online.”

In a press release, Voilà communications is in the process of restarting their generators and “are in the process of bringing our network back up.  Once this has occurred, we will be focused on managing traffic and adding capacity as rapidly as possible to aid the humanitarian efforts in Haiti.”

Haitel, a third wireless provider in the republic, could not be reached for comment as their website is down as of this posting. Media reports indicate that Haitel’s wireless network is working properly.

UPDATE: Radio Metropole reports that wireline service and Haitel telco are functioning property but are experiencing heavy congestion.