SpaceX’s Starlink internet service is helping Japan’s restoration following the earthquakes on January 1.
One day into 2024, Japan was hit with a series of quakes called the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. The largest quake hit a maximum seismic intensity of 7. After the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, local Japanese governments and their people started rescue and restoration work.
Japanese telecommunication operator KDDI is providing Starlink services to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, electricity companies, local governments, and other organizations to help with the rescue and restoration work.
■スペースXとKDDI 能登半島の避難所にStarlink 350台を無償提供— KDDI公式 (@official_kddi) January 7, 2024
KDDI quickly navigated through the aftermath of the earthquakes to establish base stations with people across Japan. Shugo Takagi—Deputy Manager of KDDI’s Solution Business Headquarters and Design Division—estimates that the Japanese telecommunications company has gathered around 200 staff at its base in Kanazawa.
KDDI has sent and is sending Starlink equipment to companies so they may maintain communication lines as they work on restoring regular utilities and necessities for people affected by the earthquakes.
“For example, electric power companies are forced to respond on-site in areas where electricity is not available. However, communication services have been disrupted in these disaster-stricken areas. Therefore, there is a high need for so-called satellite mobile phones, including Iridium.
“We will provide you with a satellite phone to support on-site inspections of areas where utility poles are broken, or power lines are down. After that, you will decide that you want to use data communication, so you will deploy Starlink, said Takagi.”
Takagi added that the demand for Starlink has increased as restoration continues. He reported that 150 Starlink antennas have been transported to Kanazawa, with 60 available for rent. The KDDI Deputy manager also shared that most people did not know how to use Starlink equipment initially because they were unfamiliar with it. However, people learned how to use Starlink equipment quickly.
SpaceX and KDDI have worked together in Japan since August 2023, months before the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. The two companies signed an agreement to provide satellite-to-cellular service in Japan. Through Starlink internet connection, SpaceX and KDDI planned to initially offer SMS text with voice and data services to be added later.
Last week, SpaceX posted pictures of six Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capability to enable communication in locations without cellular connectivity. Direct to Cell capability would be useful in dead zones and helpful during/after natural disasters like the Noto Peninsula Earthquake.