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Docomo confronts PR crisis, vows to upgrade network before the next storm

Roderick Boss

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Faced with a firestorm of complaints from frustrated subscribers, Docomo Pacific has commenced a self-assessment amid its continuing struggle to rebuild its network.

Three months since Typhoon Mawar pummeled Guam, Docomo has yet to fully restore its phone and internet services, missing its own deadline to get all of its subscribers back online by July 31.

“Unfortunately, the sheer scale of super typhoon Mawar overwhelmed our resources, and it is taking us far longer than it should to restore our network,” Roderick Boss, Docomo Pacific CEO, said in his letter to subscribers.

Typhoon Mawar made landfall on Guam on May 24, packing damaging winds that left a trail of destruction, disrupted power and water supply and cut off communications throughout the island. Mawar was the most devastating storm to hit the island in 20 years.

“Storms like Mawar are on the rise, and it seems unlikely that it will be another 20 years until the next one,” Boss said.

“As we have been rebuilding the damaged network, we have taken time to assess its overall design, the processes we use to provision services, and our customer care and communication protocols,” he added.

Boss said a little over 30 percent of Docomo’s network is currently underground and the company aims at increasing that percentage.

“We will also be accelerating the deployment of fiber, which is more resilient than other transmission lines and provides the highest speeds and quality available today,” the CEO said.

However, he did not address the customers' complaints about the inaccessible customer service hotline.

According to the company’s latest update, a majority of its customers are back online as of Aug. 13, but several parts of the island are still awaiting service restoration.

Repair work continues in certain areas of Dededo, Tamuning, Sinajana and Yona. Restoration efforts are delayed in some parts of Yigo and Asan, where “fiber crews need to further assess internet equipment connectivity.”

“One thing that slowed our recovery was the limited availability of trucks and equipment and the number of technicians needed to restore the extensively damaged lines,” Boss said.

Last week, Docomo flew in 70 additional construction linemen and fiber-coax technicians, propping up the team of engineers deployed by its parent company last month to help speed up the network restoration efforts.

“These reinforcements are here now and will help us in the future to deploy the extra trucks and technicians needed within days, rather than weeks or months," Boss said.

Docomo Pacific is a subsidiary of Japan's NTT Docomo.

“The last 12 weeks have been humbling for all of us as we have worked tirelessly to rebuild our network,” Boss said. “I want to take a moment to sincerely apologize to those of you that endured service outages and particularly to those who are still without the connections that we have all come to rely on.”

Compounding the menace of typhoons are threats of cyber attacks.

In March, Docomo reported a cyber security attack on its network system, resulting in an internet outage that affected its subscribers throughout Guam.

Docomo is the cable and internet service provider for the Joint Region Marianas, Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam.

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