O2’s mobile network remains down and out with the Olympics just weeks away.
O2’s mobile network went down at 1pm yesterday. While 2G was restored at 8am today, 3G and data services remain absent. The outage renews concerns about the digital infrastucture ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
O2’s top brass have remained curiously silent over the network outage which saw the majority of its customers unable to make calls from approximately 1pm yesterday. The company has confirmed on its status page that 2G was restored at 8am this morning, after its engineers worked through the night to resolve the problem.
The outage also includes O2’s virtual network operators, such as Giffgaff and Tesco.
The company states that "the problem with our mobile service is due to a fault with one of our network systems, which has meant some mobile phone numbers are not registering correctly on our network. As a result, some customers are having difficulty making or receiving calls, sending texts or using data."
It expects its 3G and data services to start restoring "as the day progresses."
"We apologise once again for any inconvenience this incident is causing," said a spokesperson.
[update] O2 itself does not appear to fully know what has happened to its network, and has brought in Siemens, one of its equipment providers, to assist.
It is also now claiming that the problem "is not location-specific, nor does it relate to a specific mobile number range. This means that customers have been impacted at random."
"The fault is not related to signal strength or network availability from our mobile masts, which is why phones may still be showing full signal. The fault is due to a problem with a network system, which works to register specific mobile phone numbers to the network."
O2 said it kicked in its contingency plans as soon as it was aware of the problem, and is now conducting a thorough investigation into why the network went down, and how it can avoid a repeat.
It is a hugely embarrassing event for one of the country’s largest network operators, with the Olympics opening ceremony looming on July 27.
Whether London’s creaking infrastructure is up to the task has long been a part of the discussion concerning the games’ organisation. Of particular concern has been the mobile networks, which are already groaning at capacity and may not be able to handle the influx of visitors.
The LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) has not yet responded to CBR’s questions regarding the UK’s digital infrastructure preparation at the time of print.
O2 similarly has not yet responded to CBR questions about whether the issues are related to any recent work on upgrades, the Olympics or its network share with Vodafone, or whether businesses will be compensated for the outage.
[updated] O2 has now supplied a statement:
"Following the previous update that our 2G network service has now been restored, our 3G service has been restoring gradually. We expect full service to return this afternoon. In the meantime customers who were affected should still be able to make and receive calls (and may wish to try switching their mobile phones off and on as service returns). We are sorry again for the inconvenience this has caused some customers. We continue to deploy all possible resources, and will do so until full service is restored."
Steven Hartley of analyst group Ovum simply believes that none of the UK’s mobile networks simply aren’t up to scratch.
"The huge influx of visitors to London ahead of the games, will cause network traffic spikes, putting pressure on the UK’s mobile networks, which already have a poor reputation compared to others in Western Europe. While UK mobile operators claim to be prepared, they have not yet given indication of the scale of their plans," he said.
Much of the problem related to specific regional loading on networks, such as if a hometown hero wins from a small town, or if other issues occur, such as public transport failure.
"The spilling over of people from a location where high network traffic has been anticipated to less well-prepared peripheral cells could prove disastrous," said Hartley.
"The UK as a whole must rely on previous investments to carry it through – and these have been less than optimal in the mobile space."
One of the big problems with London as a whole is that it doesn’t have much Wi Fi coverage to take the load off its mobile networks. Virgin has built Wi Fi for the London Underground, but Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan for municipal Wi Fi never came to fruition, and new Wi Fi installs by Westminster and Kensington councils are still very immature.
[update 2pm:] O2 is now stating that all 2G and 3G services have now been fully restored.
"If any customers are still having problems we recommend they turn their phone off and on again. Once again, we are sorry."
O2 is still yet to offer a full explanation for the outage.