Feeds

O2 outage outrage blamed on new Ericsson database

Single point of access became single point of failure

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

O2 has fixed its poorly mobile network, so now everyone can start asking what went wrong and what the company is going to do about it.

O2's press office isn't responding to queries. However, our understanding from various sources is that the day-long outage was caused by the transition of subscribers' details to Ericsson's Centralized User Database, which disappeared during the process leaving handsets unable to authenticate their users.

The CUDB is supposed to consolidate user records, supporting additional applications, and provide a single point of access – but on this occasion it appears that it also provided a single point of failure. With the database unavailable, mobiles and other devices were gradually booted off the network.

O2 started outsourcing its radio network to Ericsson in 2009, with the Swedish tech giant taking responsibility for field maintenance and switching sites. The relationship between the two companies extends into all areas of the business.

The telecoms-kit industry is all but an oligopoly, with NSN, Alcatel Lucent and Ericsson dividing the bigger contracts between them. Huawei is the newcomer to the party, and recently signed a deal with O2 for next-generation kit, but it wasn't involved in this particular screw-up. Other parts of the network come from Cisco and the usual players, but core functionality is specialist enough to keep the industry small.

Now that Ericsson has damaged O2 so badly, one should expect to see these telecoms rivals hanging around the O2 offices in Slough for the next few weeks, publicly saying the network failure could happen to anyone while privately briefing that it wouldn't have happened with their kit.

When it comes to users, it's the biggest customers that O2 will be worried about now. In the aftermath of a nationwide breakdown, most network operators would be terrified that the virtual operators who piggyback on their infrastructure will switch networks, taking hundreds of thousands of customers away instantly.

But O2 owns half of its biggest virtual mobile operator, Tesco Mobile, and all of its next largest, GiffGaff, so they won't be going anywhere.

Ordinary customers will demand compensation, but O2 has no obligation to provide any. Corporates with O2 contracts should negotiate hard when it comes to renewal: 21 hours of downtime is a big stick to beat the salesman with.

GiffGaff chucked £10,000 to charity after it was down for an eight-hour (unrelated) outage last month – this time GiffGaff can legitimately blame O2, but whether the parent will feel similarly obligated to cough some cash, we still don't know.

Ericsson told El Reg in a statement: "As a key supplier we have been working closely with O2 to restore the service to their customers and to identify the cause of the fault." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Mighty Blighty broadbanders beg: Let us lay cable in BT's, er, ducts
Complain to Ofcom that telco has 'effective monopoly'
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.