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Ericsson rumoured to be behind O2 and Softbank outages

Accuse Accusation Point Finger

With O2 and Softbank customers being thrown back to the 90s after a network outage, reports have emerged suggesting Ericsson is the root cause.

At roughly 5am this morning, O2 customers suffered the dreaded fate of a data-free diet, while Softbank also experienced similar problems. In Japan, the firm suggests 3G networks kicked in to partly compensate for the 4G issues, though the same could not be said for the UK. As a Giffgaff customer, your correspondent can confirm the data desert, at least in this part of East London at the time of writing (11.30am, UK)

“We’re aware that our customers are unable to use data this morning,” O2 has said in a statement. “One of our third-party suppliers has identified a global software issue in their system which has impacted us.

“We believe other mobile operators around the world are also affected. Our technical teams are working with their teams to ensure this is fixed as quickly as possible. We’d encourage our customers to use Wifi wherever they can, and we apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

Although there is no official confirmation of which supplier this might be, the FT has sources which point the finger towards Ericsson. According to two people directly involved, an issue relating to software in the systems provided by Ericsson has been identified.

In an email to Telecoms.com, Ericsson said it is working with customers to correct the issue, though it did not explicitly confirm or deny whether it was the root case of the problem.

And while it hasn’t been heavily reported, O2 and Softbank are not alone with this issue. Several telcos around the world, mainly situated in Asia, are rumoured to be experiencing similar problems. There might be a common factor between the issues…

It’s unlikely the guilty party will take ownership for the fault until the PR madness has died down, especially considering telcos will be more stringently examining the track records of suppliers ahead of the 5G bonanza, and in light of recent issues at Huawei and ZTE.

Just so you are aware, O2’s primary suppliers for network infrastructure are Ericsson and Nokia.

For O2, the ‘double-edged sword’ metaphor is hitting home hard right now. Other telcos have experienced outages in the last couple of months, EE and Vodafone certainly did in October, though it wasn’t as widely reported or condemned on social media. In leading the market share rankings in the UK, an O2 outage would certainly impact more customers than other similar examples.


2 comments

  1. Gareth Evans 06/12/2018 @ 4:32 pm

    Well the word on the street is a hard coded license end date on the Ericsson SGSN’s caused the issue at 5 am when everything just stopped because the license expired. An emergency software patch was required to fix it. Who does hard licensing these days and puts the end date in the source code.
    I guess they never thought we would ever reach 5 am Decemeber 06th 2018 .
    Sucks to be the developer who put that in the code.

  2. Thai Hung Vu 07/12/2018 @ 2:27 am

    The quite similar issue (severe outage) happened with Mobifone data network in Vietnam at around 11h30 AM (GMT+7) local time yesterday.
    I wonder if it also came from the same bug with Ericsson core network…

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