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Giffgaff shudders to a halt

The people's network cuts off the people

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Customers of the "people's network", Giffgaff, found themselves disconnected from the people when the entire network went down for three hours.

The network's billing system started throwing up errors just before five on Tuesday, and the entire network - closely followed by the company's website - was down for the next three hours while engineers worked to fix the problem, with full connectivity not restored until eight in the evening.

We know precisely when that happened, because with refreshing transparency, Giffgaff reported the diagnostic process as well as the predicted fix time and the eventual success, through Twitter and Facebook as well as on its own forum - though the latter was of limited value as it relies on the same authentication mechanism and was therefore unavailable to users.

According to forum postings (now visible) the problem was rapidly traced to the billing system, and was fixed largely by the old stand-by tactic of turning it off and then turning it back on again. An hour after rebooting, the company reported that the network was stable.

The outage was considerable, though not unprecedented in mobile networks; but the transparency with which the company addressed the problem, and reported the fix, is something new.

It will be interesting to see if the company is equally transparent about the post mortem: reporting exactly why its billing system suddenly needed rebooting.

It's notable that O2, which owns Giffgaff, today started reporting live network conditions though a new coverage checker.

It's hard to imagine the parent adopting the bare-all-in-public approach of its progeny, but more visibility is always to be appreciated, and we look forward to knowing more about why we've been cut off in future. ®

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