About noon on Wednesday, British newspapers and tech websites started posting complaints that O2's mobile phone network failed in a major way. Many of O2's 22-million customers in Britain were cut off and the carrier cannot say what the problem is nor how long it will take to solve the problem, but offered the standard "Engineers are working on it"
A spokeswoman said the problem was not location-specific. "The problem is an issue within part of our core network that is preventing some mobile phones from successfully connecting. The problem is not location-specific. All possible resources across our and our suppliers' engineering teams are being deployed to restore service as soon as possible."O2's network status webpage is offline
, most commentators say the reason is because of too many hits by their frustrated customers. Wednesday’s major failure is O2's second in two weeks. In June, thousands of customers were left unable to send texts for a day.
Twitter seems to be working in Britain, so many of O2's customers are showing their frustration that way. The Daily Mail newspaper found some humor in the problem
: "One Twitter user, @Gazbelfast, posted: What did one O2 customer say to the other? Nothing."
Last year in October, RIM's BlackBerry data center went down for three days leaving millions of worldwide users unable to access email, internet services or the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) system
. Then the RIM spokesperson said: "Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible .We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed."
Many commentators are comparing Wednesday's O2 failure to the problems of NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank
. During that crash, customers found payments had not been made to their accounts, and many were unable to access their cash. NatWest opened about 1,200 branches for the first time ever on a Sunday to deal with the backlog of transactions.
As we become more and more dependent upon larger and larger inter-connected systems, the single point of failure that seems to be a major cause of network-wide crashes are software updates. As many of our readers and editors know, debugging software is not a simple process. Sometimes Murphy’s Law
is the only explanation that makes any sense at all: Anything that can possibly go wrong, will.
Of course Britain's communications regulator, Ofcom
will have a large pile of complaints on their desk Thursday morning. Then the British Parliament will open an investigation and we all know how much good that will do …
In the mean time, make sure your Tweets about O2’s network crash have some humor in them.
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