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KDDI Prepares for Disasters with Vehicle-Mounted Base Stations Backhauled via Starlink

KDDI is a big fan of SpaceX's Starlink satellites. Earlier this year I talked about how it's working to solve rural connectivity issue in Japan with the help of Starlink. In August this year, KDDI signed an agreement with SpaceX to bring Satellite-to-Cellular (Direct-to-Device) service to Japan. 

Along with solving the connectivity challenges, KDDI is also looking at Starlink to solve the backhaul challenge in case if disaster strikes that destroys the ground infrastructure.

A press release in July detailed this as follows:

KDDI and KDDI Engineering will deploy vehicle-mounted base stations and portable base stations that use the satellite broadband service "Starlink" as a backhaul line starting in July 2023, and will deploy approximately 200 base stations, including ship-type base stations, by the end of fiscal 2023. The machines will be introduced nationwide. Through this, we aim to provide customers with high-speed, low-latency au communications even in the event of a disaster.

During the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, roads were cut off and optical cables were cut, making it difficult to restore base stations overland. Furthermore, as natural disasters have become more severe in recent years, there are situations in which it is impossible to enter disaster-stricken areas due to flooding caused by long periods of rainfall.

KDDI and KDDI Engineering have envisioned various disasters since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and have developed "ship-type base stations" that transmit radio waves from the sea in the event land routes are cut off, and "helicopter base stations" that enable communication in isolated areas in the mountains. We have been proceeding with the introduction and consideration of disaster countermeasure equipment such as ``amphibious vehicles and four-wheeled buggies'' that will enable the transportation of recovery personnel and equipment to areas with widespread flooding damage.

In 2023, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake, we will introduce base stations that utilize Starlink as the latest disaster recovery initiative. When a natural disaster such as an earthquake or typhoon occurs, by utilizing Starlink base stations and various equipment, we can quickly restore communications from "land, sea, air, and space," helping customers and recovery. We will create a safe and secure environment for those involved in the work.

A promotional video added recently (in Japanese) details these vehicles:

On March 2, 2023, KDDI conducted the "2023 KDDI Disaster Preparedness Training" (hereinafter referred to as the "Disaster Preparedness Training") at the Minato Mirai earthquake-resistant berth in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture. KDDI conducts large-scale drills in cooperation with related organizations every few years, and strives to be able to take prompt countermeasures in the event that a large-scale disaster actually occurs. Approximately 150 people participated in this disaster response drill, including representatives from various related organizations such as the Japan Coast Guard, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and Yokohama City Fire Department

The following video from Japanese news channel provides a preview of this training:

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