Telecom services in the worst-hit quake region around Wenchuan county were still cut off last night while services started to limp back to normalcy in neighboring areas.
According to China Mobile, the country's largest mobile phone carrier, half the local wireless communications in Sichuan province were disrupted.
More than 2,300 base stations in the province stopped working due to power failures or severe congestion. The exact number of base stations in the province is not known.
Sha Yaojia, vice-president of China Mobile, told CCTV yesterday that the mobile communication traffic in Sichuan surged tenfold after the quake, causing congestion in three switching stations.
China Unicom, the country's smaller cellphone operator, said in a statement that both its GSM and CDMA networks in Wenchuan and four counties in neighboring Gansu province were cut off.
About 200 base stations in Sichuan and 500 in neighboring Shaanxi province stopped working. One of China Unicom's two fiber-optic cables connecting Xi'an and Chengdu was also cut off, the company said.
Pang Wei, spokesman for China Unicom, said it was difficult to say when the services would resume. "Because most of the telecom disruption in the region was caused by cuts in power supply and telecom fiber-optic cables, it is hard to estimate when we can fully repair our network."
He said the company had dispatched engineers to build temporary alternative networks in Sichuan soon after the earthquake.
Telecom disruptions upset many customers, especially those who have families in Sichuan.
Xia Ji, marketing director of a Beijing-based IT company, told China Daily that he tried to call his family in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, the whole afternoon but could get through to his mother only at 7 pm.
The earthquake also cut off fixed-line networks of China Telecom in 10 counties in Sichuan and Gansu provinces but long distance calls were not affected.
China Netcom, another fixed-line operator, was not available for comment.
China had 574.6 million mobile phone users by the end of March, according to government figures. Users in Sichuan reached 26 million. There are also 17.67 million fixed-line users in the province.
Source: China Daily