To view PDF files

You need Adobe Reader 7.0 or later in order to read PDF files on this site.
If Adobe Reader is not installed on your computer, click the button below and go to the download site.

Feature Articles: Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit—Architecture for Quickly Responding to Unexpected ICT Demand

Overseas Deployment of MDRU: ITU Project in the Philippines, and MDRU Standardization Efforts

Hideki Nishizawa and Toshikazu Sakano


The network facility at the San Remigio municipality on Cebu Island in the Philippines sustained enormous damage from super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. NTT Network Innovation Laboratories, NTT Communications Corporation, and partners initiated a feasibility study on restoring telecommunication and information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure damaged by typhoon Haiyan through the use of the Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit (MDRU), under cooperation between the Ministry of Internal affairs and Communications of Japan, the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines, and ITU (International Telecommunication Union). We report on this feasibility study in this article. We also introduce the work being done to standardize the MDRU by NTT Network Innovation Laboratories.

Keywords: ITU, disaster relief, overseas deployment


1. Introduction

In November 2013, NTT won a prize at the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Telecom World awards being held in Bangkok, Thailand in the category of Broadband in all phases of disaster management and risk reduction for its research and development (R&D) of the Movable and Deployable information and communication technology (ICT) Resource Unit (MDRU) [1]. The effectiveness of the MDRU as an emergency telecommunication platform has since received high commendations from worldwide entities adopting disaster prevention measures, including the nonprofit organization Philippine Central Visayas Information Sharing Network (CVISNET) Foundation, Inc.*, which has been encouraging broad use of ICT in the Philippines.

The islands of the Philippines lie in the typhoon corridor in the Pacific area and experience an average of 20 typhoons per year. Typhoon-fed storms and high water are the most critical problems for the Philippine government and its residents. In November 2013, the Visayas region of the Philippines felt the full force of the super typhoon Haiyan. Typhoon-fed storm surges grew to several meters high along the sea coast and caused widespread devastation in the area similar to that of a tsunami. To make matters worse, the communication blackout obstructed attempts to evacuate people. About 6200 people lost their lives in the typhoon, and the number of missing remains at about 1800 [2].

National disasters are on the rise because of climate change, and thus, the United Nations and the international community are continuing efforts to find ways to reduce the risk of natural disasters, prevent the loss of lives, and reduce economic losses. In the process, the Government of Japan and the ITU are collaborating to provide assistance to restore telecommunication connectivity in one of the islands most affected by typhoon Haiyan. On May 13, 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and ITU finalized a cooperation agreement for a feasibility study on restoring connectivity through the use of the MDRU and launched the project.

* The CVISNET Foundation, Inc. is an e-government project in the Philippines funded by the Department of Science and Technology Region 7, and a joint collaboration of the Regional Development Council Region 7, the Government Organization for Information Technology, and the Confederation of Scientific and Professional Organizations.

2. Summary of ITU project

The ITU project, entitled Feasibility study of restoring connectivity through the use of the Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit was inaugurated in May 2014 with the objectives of studying the effectiveness of the MDRU in providing immediate communication infrastructure and IT (information technology) facilities in the worst disaster-stricken areas in Cebu, Philippines, and in studying the viability of the MDRU as a communication solution in the aftermath of a disaster. San Remigio municipality on Cebu Island was the location of the MDRU feasibility study. The municipality consists of 27 barangays, or districts, and has a population of about 64,000. On-site reports of the disaster were gathered manually because all communication networks had been destroyed (Fig. 1). The only source of communications to the government was through a satellite phone under the office of the Mayor.

Fig. 1. Location of San Remigio municipality in the Philippines and depiction of wireless network in San Remigio before the typhoon. (The network was destroyed by the typhoon.)

A summary of the feasibility study is given in Table 1, and a press release announcing that ITU, MIC, and DOST had signed the cooperation agreement, along with a photo of the signees, is shown in Fig. 2. The scope of this feasibility study covers technical testing as well as sustainable operation and management, including the provision of training to local staff and improving the disaster management planning structure in local communities for increased disaster preparedness.

Table 1. Summary of project.

Fig. 2. Press release of cooperation agreement issued by the Philippine government and photo of signees.

3. Launching the feasibility study

After agreement of the cooperation contract was reached, NTT and NTT Communications Corporation (NTT Com) started preparing for the feasibility study in collaboration with local government staff members and residents. The installation of the MDRU, project administration, and support were carried out by NTT Network Innovation Laboratories, NTT Com, NTT Advanced Technologies Corporation, NTT Electronics Corporation, Fujitsu Limited (from Japan), and CVISNET and Diff Sigma Tech Inc. (from the Philippines). NTT Com, Diff Sigma, and Kyocera Corporation respectively provided the MDRU server unit, the MDRU wireless system, and heavy-duty smartphones. The MDRU server unit and the MDRU wireless system used in the project are shown in Fig. 3. They were installed in December 2014 in San Remigio Municipal Hall, and the wireless equipment was installed in a national high school (about 400 m away from the hall), where an evacuation center had been set up. Point-to-point wireless equipment provided a communication link between the municipal hall and the high school. The MDRU team established a wide area Wi-Fi network by employing AP (access point)-AP connection between the Wi-Fi APs at the municipal hall and those at the high school, and a 24-GHz FWA (fixed wireless access) connection between the two buildings [3]. We confirmed through the feasibility study that the MDRU operated effectively in the environment in the Philippines even though there were some differences between Japan and the Philippines.

Fig. 3. MDRU and wireless equipment installed at San Remigio Municipal Hall and at a high school.

An example of a use case in the event of a disaster is shown in Fig. 4. In this case, the mayor first called municipal employees on the phone to get information about the disaster. Then, the municipal employees took pictures of the disaster-affected area with a smartphone and saved them on the server in the MDRU. This enabled the mayor to gain a visual understanding of the disaster affected area by looking at the pictures stored in the server. The mayor then instructed employees at the municipal hall to provide relief goods in the affected area, and then he reported on the situation to the central government.

Fig. 4. Use case of MDRU: investigating the extent of damage from the typhoon.

We plan to continue working to improve some operation rules, the connectivity, and the specifications of the MDRU by conducting a feasibility study of each use case in order to meet the needs of municipal employees and local residents.

The scope of this feasibility study included not only technical testing but also the provision of training. A training session on installing and running the MDRU applications [4] in the smartphone was held for the residents of San Remigio (Photos 1 and 2). Of 30 people who attended, more than 90% of them said that the MDRU phone was “easy to use” or “very easy.” The briefing session is shown in Photo 3, in which the essential points and the importance of the MDRU feasibility study were discussed with the engineers in San Remigio, and the technologies used in the MDRU project were explained. We demonstrated that the MDRU was easy to use for residents in San Remigio through this feasibility study. The MDRU will need to be equipped with a power generator when a long-term power outage occurs, although some UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) have already been mounted on MDRUs. We plan to confirm the feasibility and review the rules and operation of the MDRU with local residents.

Photo 1. Training session for residents of San Remigio.

Photo 2. Installing and running the MDRU applications on a smartphone.

Photo 3. Briefing session for engineers in San Remigio on the essential points and importance of the MDRU feasibility study and on the technologies used in the MDRU project.

4. Standardization

The Japanese government led the discussion on establishing a Focus Group (FG) on disaster relief in ITU-T (ITU-Telecommunication Standardization Sector), and it was agreed to establish the Focus Group on Disaster Relief Systems, Network Resilience and Recovery (FG-DR&NRR). Many Japanese use cases including MDRU had been proposed for the deliverables of FG-DR&NRR during two years of discussions and standardization efforts. Since the FG activities were finalized in June 2014, we have been working on finalizing an ITU-T Recommendation of the MDRU in Study Group 15 by 2016 because ITU-T standardization is the crucial element for promoting broad use of the MDRU throughout the world [5]. The technical report entitled Requirements on the improvement of network resilience and recovery with movable and deployable ICT resource units that describes the immediate lessons learned after the Great East Japan Earthquake are already available on the ITU-T FG-DR&NRR website [6].

5. Future plans

NTT and NTT Com are working to promote broad use of the MDRU throughout the world for disaster relief after large-scale disasters and to expand its use in other applications such as in prompt provision of ICT services in developing countries lacking ICT infrastructure.


The MDRU project is a joint R&D effort between NTT, Tohoku University, Fujitsu Limited, and NTT Com. This R&D project is partially supported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan.


[1] T. Sakano, S. Kotabe, and T. Komukai, “Overview of Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Unit Architecture” NTT Technical Review, Vol. 12, No. 5, 2015.
[2] Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, “Overview of Damage by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines” (in Japanese).
[3] Y. Shimizu, Y. Suzuki, T. Kumagai, and K. Goto, “Wireless Access Network System Using M2M Wireless Access for MDRU,” NTT Technical Review, Vol. 12, No. 5, 2015.
[4] S. Kotabe, T. Sakano, and T. Komukai, “ICT Service for MDRUs,” NTT Technical Review, Vol. 12, No. 5, 2015.
[5] N. Araki and H. Imanaka, “Results of ITU-T Focus Group on Disaster Relief, Network Resilience and Recovery (FG-DR&NRR),” NTT Technical Review, Vol. 12, No. 12, 2014.
[6] ITU-T Focus Group Technical Report, “Requirements on the Improvement of Network Resilience and Recovery with Movable and Deployable ICT Resource Units,” FG-DR&NRR Version 1.0, 2014.
Hideki Nishizawa
Senior Research Engineer, Supervisor, NTT Network Innovation Laboratories.
He received the B.S. and M.S. in physics from Chiba University in 1994 and 1996, respectively. He joined NTT Network Service Systems Laboratories in 1996, where he engaged in research on photonic switching systems. He moved to NTT Phoenix Communications Inc. (now NTT BizLink Inc.) in 2001, where he worked on the development of visual communication services. He moved to NTT Research and Development Planning Department in 2007, where he was involved in planning R&D activities for future networks. He has been with NTT Network Innovation Laboratories since 2014. He is a member of the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers (IEICE).
Toshikazu Sakano
Senior Research Engineer, Supervisor, Photonic Transport Network Laboratory, NTT Network Innovation Laboratories.
He received the B.E., M.E., and Ph.D. in electronics engineering from Tohoku University, Miyagi, in 1985, 1987, and 1998, respectively. He joined NTT Transmission Systems Laboratories in 1987. Since joining NTT, he has been active in several R&D fields including optical signal processing for high-performance computing systems, super-high-definition imaging systems, photonic network architectures, and large-capacity optical transmission systems. Since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, he has been engaged in R&D of resilient ICT infrastructure available in disaster situations. He received the Young Engineer Award from IEICE in 1994 and the Best Paper Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)”Ēs International Conference on Computer Design in 1990 and 1993. He is a Senior Member of IEICE and the Optical Society of America (OSA), and a member of IEEE.

¢÷As of January 2015, he is a director of Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).