Japan telecom giant NTT East mulls opening up for free phone

Japan telecom giant NTT East mulls opening up for free phone

Naoki Shibutani, president of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp. NTT East responds to a question during an interview with The Asahi Shimbun at the telecom giant's headquarters in Tokyo. During huge network failures, Yasuro Suzuki Telecom giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp. is considering making emergency public phones available for free calls.

The option was revealed by Naoki Shibutani, president of NTT East, during an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

He made a statement after a massive network breakdown involving KDDI Corp. that prevented users from making emergency calls in early July.

Emergency-use public phones, which are not available for use in normal times, would be opened up for free public use as a means of emergency communication when disaster strikes.

The telephones are installed at elementary and junior high schools, community centers, and other facilities.

The NTT group has been removing pay phones from streets and elsewhere with the advent of smartphones and other mobile devices. In March, only 138,000 were still operating, down by 40 percent from 10 years ago. It increased the number of emergency-use public phones by nearly 10 fold to 88,000 in the interim.

At the time of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that devastated areas of northeastern Japan, Shibutani spearheaded recovery efforts for the communication network as NTT East s Fukushima branch manager. He said the experience was the creation of him.

If we need to put emergency-use public phones to use during a massive system failure, I think we can consult with the communications ministry and get the go-ahead, he said.

Shibutani said that he felt the costs for providing such a service should be borne by the business operator and other parties responsible for the problem, because he realized that emergency-use public phones could prove effective in times of telecommunications failure.

He noted that network failures tend to get larger when internet traffic is concentrated in the Tokyo metropolitan area or elsewhere.

Shibutani said that we can't achieve our goal unless we create a decentralized digital infrastructure.