Japan will introduce a new communications system in April, enabling public authorities to share live images and other information, such as locations, in the event of a disaster, a source familiar with the matter said Sunday.
The digitized system, led by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, is expected to facilitate smoother communication and swift rescue and recovery efforts among organizations such as local governments, police, fire authorities and the Self-Defense Forces, according to the source.
The absence of a cohesive system across various organizations has posed challenges to their ability to coordinate during emergencies.
The technology, known as "Public Safety LTE," has already been implemented in countries such as the United States and South Korea and will be provided in Japan by telecommunications company Internet Initiative Japan Inc.
The ministry plans to conduct verification tests with local authorities and other organizations during fiscal 2023 in preparation for the system rollout.
Through the new technology, authorities at disaster scenes will be able to send images through smartphone apps, as well as hold online meetings with disaster response headquarters.
The ministry aims to digitize communications while the police and fire departments will continue to use their existing means of radio communications.
Internet Initiative Japan does not have its own communications network. Instead, it pays to borrow lines from telecommunications firms NTT Docomo Inc. and KDDI Corp.
According to the source, if communication on one line is disrupted, the other line will provide backup, and a system is in operation to ensure continuous connectivity, even during emergencies or when communication networks are congested.
A "priority telephone service for disasters," which is not subject to communication restrictions, will also be available, the source said.
The system can be accessed by inserting a SIM card into a readily available smartphone, which helps in cost savings as it eliminates the need for additional equipment, the source explained.
Internet Initiative Japan, financed by KDDI and NTT Docomo's parent firm Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., operates its own low-cost smartphone business and handles a wide range of IT infrastructure and security services for companies and public offices.