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O2 leaves travellers in the lurch

Callers left speechless in numerous languages

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Updated A mere day after cutting data access for domestic users, O2 has managed to leave those customers travelling abroad without even a voice service to keep them connected.

The problem surfaced last night, and doesn't seem to be affecting all users, though some are reporting they've been cut off from voice and data connectivity since around 22.00. A few have claimed to have received e-mail contact from the operator saying the service could be down for anther two days.

The GSM protocol requires several contacts with the home operator's infrastructure when roaming, not least in authenticating the user's SIM and routing data connections though the home network. So the fault could lie in any of half a dozen places, and the operator isn't being very forthcoming in narrowing down those options.

It's been a bad week for O2: UK users only got their data connectivity back yesterday after failing to get IP addresses for a few days, a fault which really shouldn't have existed if appropriate backups were in place.

Upsetting roaming customers is going to cost the company a lot more than dodgy data connections. Roaming customers not only generate a lot of revenue by making calls - particularly if they roam outside the controlling influence of the EU - they also tend to be the most profitable of customers even when they're at home.

Multiple problems so close in time, and over the summer, could indicate a lack of backup facilities and staff, or perhaps it's just really appalling luck. ®

Update: O2 has finally been in touch, with an underwhelming statement that tells us almost nothing, but at least they claim to be sorry: “We are aware of an issue currently affecting customers who are roaming in certain countries. We have identified the cause of the problem and are applying a fix which we hope will restore service for these affected customers as soon as possible. We are very sorry for this loss of service.”

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