Problems at part state-owned telecoms firm Telenor that left as many as 3 million users without coverage for up to 18 hours over the Pentecost holiday weekend were caused by a never-before-seen “signal storm,” the company revealed in a report on Thursday.
Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas described the problem as the most serious since Telenor – now the world’s sixth biggest mobile telephone operator with operations across Europe and Asia – launched its mobile network in 1993. The company has now delivered a report to the state postal and communications authority, and the Ministry for Transport and Communications, on the outage. The report reveals that the problem was caused after a boot-up and software update process had been completed with regard to its internet services.
Problems soon spread to the telephone network, where unusually high internal activity between servers, described by Telenor as a “signal storm,” caused the outages. The company still does not know why the boot-up related to internet issues affected the mobile phone network. When the problems were first identified on Friday, technicians began the process of restarting necessary servers. One server that had been particularly strained was disconnected and set up from scratch, after which all servers were restarted. Since the problem arose, Telenor says it has worked to increase network capacity, as well as introducing protection measures for servers that should prevent them stopping altogether in the event of a future “signal storm.”
Baksaas, speaking to NRK, said that the company “apologizes strongly for what has happened, and that it took a long time to resolve.” He also promised to “learn” from the experience. He described the problems as “a telephone operator’s worst nightmare,” confirming that it had cost the company at least NOK 100 million (nearly USD 18 million).
The CEO was criticized by many for not taking a public-enough role during the problem. He was also out of the country on a business trip in Denmark for much of the crisis. Although emphasizing that he was closely involved in executing crisis management strategies to solve the problems, and that the handling would have been the same whether or not he had been physically in the country, Baksaas also recognized that he “should have been available earlier,” adding that he “should have traveled straight back to Norway.”
The Norwegian government still has a 54 percent share in Telenor, which was once a wholly owned state telecommunications enterprise, and government sources were quick to comment on the recent outages. Industry minister Trond Giske of the Labour Party has joined the criticism of Telenor, and demanded both the quick release of a report and the swift introduction of new measures. Speaking to newspaper VG some days ago, Giske said that “it cannot do that we have systems that mean that all Norwegians are disconnected from the mobile network for so many hours.” The minister for transport and communications and a representative of the Center Party, Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, also addressed the situation, which she described as “totally unacceptable” when speaking to NRK.
Telenor’s private and corporate customers will not be billed for domestic or international calls, text messaging, multimedia messaging or use of mobile internet services on telephones or computers between Friday 10 June 00:01 and Monday 13 June 23:59 as compensation.
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