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O2 kicks out Ericsson server for breaking its network

No third strike for dodgy database

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Ericsson's Centralized User Database has been fingered by O2 for a second network outage which hit the operator last week, and will thus be given the boot despite the £10m cost of a replacement.

Last week's outage wasn't as serious as the 21-hour downtime which hit O2 customers in July, but it was down to the same bit of kit – which is why O2 is replacing it with "a proven alternative solution" and has earmarked £10m to pay for the switch on top of the £1.5m that it spends daily on expanding the network.

"We are not prepared to risk this happening to our customers for a third time," says the canned statement from COO Derek McManus, who also talks about "re-focusing our Service Experience Team to be solely dedicated to ensuring the highest level of customer network experience". He adds: "Their performance will now be measured on customers’ confidence in our network."

Confidence is key here. Customers will pay more for reliable connectivity and will avoid any company they don't believe capable of delivering it. One outage may be considered unfortunate, it could happen to anyone, but two looks like a trend and something must be seen to be done.

But the move is bad news for Ericsson. O2 is still working with the telecommunications technology provider, of course – the whole radio network has been outsourced to Ericsson since 2009. The problem at hand is just this shiny new server, so Ericsson will be top of the vendor list to provide a replacement, but it won't be the only name there.

Huawei already has the O2 contract for next-generation kit, so will no doubt be putting its access to O2's Slough headquarters to good use in an attempt to get some kit in place, and one can be sure that the rest of the pack will be lurking nearby.

O2 tells us it is "working through the detail" on the replacement, and all likelihood it will be an existing Ericsson server, just one with less ambition than the CUDB.

It's hard to see how that will restore confidence of ordinary customers, but this is also about restoring the confidence of the industry, and investors, who may care more, and it will likely make O2 a little less gung ho about new servers in future too, for better or for worse. ®

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