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UK mobile networks hit by outage

It didn’t take long for the UK’s mobile networks to feel the strain from additional home workers, after UK government advised people to work from home

Not even 24 hours after prime minister Boris Johnson advised all those who could work from home to do so, and after dark predictions of mobiles failing to cope with the strain, the UK’s leading mobile operators have reported network outages.

The first signs of trouble arrived at around 10am on 17 March, when the UK network monitoring website DownDetector reported issues among users of all of the leading services – Three UK, O2, EE and Vodafone, and partner services such as Tesco Mobile (O2) and Giffgaff (O2) – particularly in areas such as London, Nottingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol.

Responding to customers, O2 confirmed that some may be experiencing issues when making and receiving voice calls on its 2G, 3G and 4G networks. It added that its mobile data and messaging services and O2 Wi-Fi services had not been affected by what it called a “cross-industry” issue.

The company assured customers that its technical teams were investigating and working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

BT-owned EE also admitted that some of its customers had been experiencing problems making calls on 17 March, which it said was caused by “an issue in another operator’s network”. It said work was being done to resolve this as soon as possible; crucially, from the perspective of home networking, stated clearly that the issue was not related to its increase due to the coronavirus.

Three UK noted that here had been an issue affecting around 3% of voice calls and stressed that its team was working to fix the problem as soon as possible. It assured customers that the rest of its network was stable. Vodafone added that what it called a “relatively short-lived problem” affected around 9% of voice calls only on 3G not getting through. It too emphasised that all the UK’s operators were working together on the matter.

The mobile problems came just as the operators around Europe have been trying to reassure customers that despite the millions who have been advised to work from home to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, their residential networks were resilient enough to cope with the inevitable increased demands.

Read more about UK network coverage

However, a joint statement from the leading operators in Spain warned that networks were already experiencing a traffic explosion in recent days as a result of the expansion of Covid-19 and the measures and recommendations derived from it.

They appealed for rational and responsible use of the networks to allow all users a high-quality communication ecosystem that was sustainable over time.

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