Telecom workers restore links

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Internet companies and the Big Three telecom operators said on Sunday they are making every effort to safeguard smooth service in Sichuan province.

Cellphones and a laptop being recharged at an electric supply station in Lushan county, Sichuan province, on Sunday. [Photo/China Daily]

Cellphones and a laptop being recharged at an electric supply station in Lushan county, Sichuan province, on Sunday. [Photo/China Daily]

As of 1:30 pm, Internet and phone connections had been partially restored in Baoxing county, about 42 kilometers northwest of the epicenter of Saturday's deadly earthquake, which isolated the county seat and cut communication links.

Ongoing aftershocks and poor traffic conditions have hampered work to restore services, China Central Television reported.

China Telecom's signal coverage was restored in Baoxing at noon, according to the company, making it the first carrier to restore phone links after the earthquake. The company has sent about 900 maintenance workers, 45 communication vehicles and other equipment to the quake-hit region.

China Mobile, the nation's largest telecom company, said it had restored the cell signal on late Sunday afternoon.

"We have been preparing and upgrading our emergency plans to deal with events since the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake," said Li Jun, deputy director of information services at China Mobile. "The emergency restoration plan was designed for such disasters."

A magnitude-8 earthquake devastated Wenchuan in May 2008, leaving more than 87,000 people dead or missing.

China Unicom's Sichuan branch said it had dispatched more than 300 maintenance workers, four communication vehicles and equipment to restore base stations.

Late on Saturday, the Big Three said phone calls, text messaging and roaming services would be free in quake-stricken areas. The carriers advised people to use text messaging instead of making calls, as it requires less bandwidth.

As many as 279 telecom base stations operated by China Mobile and China Unicom collapsed in the quake, Xinhua News Agency reported. Ninety-seven constructed by ZTE were put out of service, although at least 30 had been repaired as of Sunday, the company said.

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