Telstra offers rebates and Asian carriers mobilize after quake, tsunami disaster

Asian telecommunication carriers are mobilizing to help those affected by the weekend's devastating earthquakes off Indonesia and subsequent tsunami waves.

In the affected area, carriers are rushing to both restore service to customers and are also setting up call centers from which people can make calls at no cost. In Thailand, for example, CAT Telecom Public Co. Ltd. is offering free international calls and Internet access to tourists from help centers and Donmuang Airport in Bangkok, the carrier said.

Sri Lanka Telecom has restored service to some areas. However, around 10,000 lines remain out of service in the Hambamtota area due to damage at the telephone exchange and the situation of the Tangall exchange is under assessment, the carrier said. The carrier has sent staff into affected areas to provide emergency telecoms services to customers from locations such as police stations and hospitals, it said.

Australia's Telstra Corp. Ltd. said some of its customers will be eligible for rebates on calls related to the disaster. Australian non-government and non-profit organizations providing support in the area will be eligible for a rebate on Telstra fixed, mobile and Internet costs for all communications between Australia and the affected countries. The rebate will apply to costs incurred for one month from Dec. 26.

Telstra also said it will offer rebates to customers in Australia who use its fixed or mobile services between noon AEDT on Dec. 26 and midnight AEDT on Dec. 30 to check on immediate family members who are traveling or living in the areas. Telstra mobile phone customers who are roaming in the affected areas and use their cell phones to make calls back to relatives in Australia during the same period will also be eligible for rebates.

Sri Lankan carriers are using signals from roaming cell phones to provide help for tourists, according to a report from Agence France-Presse. Carriers said 10,252 phones were roaming on Sri Lanka's networks when the tsunami struck and SMS (Short Message Service) messages were sent to all the handsets detailing a number to call for help.

After the tsunami, 4,269 of the roaming phones had been used to make at least one call while the other phones had gone dead, AFP reported.

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