Feeds

O2 outage outrage blamed on new Ericsson database

Single point of access became single point of failure

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

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." ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
What FTC lawsuit? T-Mobile US touts 10GB, $100 family-of-4 plan
Folks 'could use that money for more important things' says CEO Legere
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.