A quick summary of some of the expert reaction to O2’s 24 hour long network outage.
Francesco Radicati, Informa Telecoms & Media
"Although O2’s attempt to use Twitter and its website to provide updates on the problem went some way to keeping customers informed, it was not proactive enough to avoid giving customers a poor perception of its service.
"To make matters worse, the outage does not only affect O2’s customers, it also has an impact on other people that use services that rely on O2’s connectivity, such as Transport for London’s cycle-hire scheme. So the impact goes far beyond the 24 million O2 subscriptions.
"Providing a reliable network is not only an operator’s core business, it is a key differentiator in the UK’s highly competitive market so an outage could cause significant damage to an operator’s reputation. However, telecoms is a complex and dynamic business and O2 has not been the first operator to face challenges in the UK: Orange also had issues with its 3G network in March this year. Of course, operators need to make the right investment to try and avoid any service availability problem, but, if it does happen, transparency and honesty with customers can make all the difference. Although O2 was responsive on Twitter and included updates of the status of the solution to the problem on its homepage, it was not enough to deal with the bad experiences and frustration its customers were experiencing.
"This outage could be also a further embarrassment to O2 as the Olympic Games take place in London later this month, and it raises questions about how the operator will cope with the strain that the influx of tourists will put on its mobile network.
"Although O2 has dealt better with this problem than other operators in previous cases, it should still be far more proactive in engaging with its customers when problems happen – it should communicate with the customers as soon as a problem occurs, essentially before the customer experiences the problem.
"In the long term, however, the outage will have a less of an impact as consumers will always have a financial and psychological resistance to changing their current provider. Furthermore, there is a lack of options and alternatives in the UK’s mobile market as consumers do not see a significant difference in terms of service quality between the operators."
Steve Hartley, Ovum
"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.
"Mobile capacity upgrades at key transport and crowd hotspots will undoubtedly take place before the Games. However, if there is a major 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.
"The national perspective is both a fixed and mobile concern. The BBC, the UK’s state broadcaster, has announced plans to stream live video of 27 different events on its website on the two Saturdays during the Games. BT has conceded that it has brought its fixed broadband investments forward by 6-12 months to cope with such demand. However, where that demand appears will not be easy to predict, which makes fixed and mobile preparations difficult to assess. For example, when a British athlete reaches a final, local support will cause a concentration of demand from their hometown, as well as an increase across the nation.
"We hope that our concerns are unfounded and the Games pass without telecoms incident. Connectivity at the Olympic Park can at least be predicted and planned based on a greenfield implementation of the latest technologies and architectures. However, 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."
Michael Allen, Compuware
"In recent weeks we’ve seen how technology problems can have significant problems on the everyday lives of millions of people. First we saw the problems at NatWest and RBS and now 02. Not being able to make a call will be as serious to many people as not being able to take cash out of the bank. Unfortunately, these problems will only continue to increase unless organisations take a fundamentally different approach to the way they manage the performance of the IT systems we rely on to go about our day to day lives.
"Too often institutions are managing the technology stack in silos. The problem is, the systems that make up these day to day services are getting more and more complex and interdependent. O2’s ability to deliver a service to customers will rely on hundreds of different components, systems and applications working in harmony. This can make preventing these types of service disruptions difficult as well as finding the root cause time consuming. This is why a new approach needs to be taken; companies must manage their technology services in a much more integrated and holistic service centric manner."
Askar Sheibani, Comtek
"O2 has failed to deliver a basic service to its customers in the past few days, leaving hundreds of thousands without not only data services, but also basic call connectivity and the ability to send text messages. To have an entire network down is a poor show for the company, and does not bode well for an operator who plans to deliver 4G services in a year’s time.
"Mobile phones are an increasingly essential part of day-to-day life for consumers and businesses alike, and incidents such as this are simply un-acceptable. This failure to deliver basic 2G and 3G services, indicates that O2 may have taken its eye off the ball – ignoring the maintenance of its existing service in the rush to deliver 4G.
"For too many businesses, simple practices such as repairing and maintaining existing technology gets overlooked, in favour of newer fads. Unfortunately this ‘throw-away’ culture is not just wasteful and inefficient, but it is also detrimental to the service the consumer receives – as O2 customers have witnessed in the past 24 hours. Investing in innovation and developing new technologies is, of course, worthwhile; but it is absolutely paramount that companies continue to deliver the level of service which existing customers are paying for and relying upon. Whilst O2 has paid the price this time round, other network providers following a similar path would do well to take heed of the warning signs, and ensure their existing infrastructure is up to scratch."