M1 service disruptions: IDA finds telco not at fault but says M1 should do better job of communicating with customers

A mobile phone showing the 'No Service' signal from M1. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
A mobile phone showing the 'No Service' signal from M1. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - TELCO M1 might not have attracted a fine for its latest disruptions in February 2014 and October 2013, but the authorities said they are not letting up on telecommunications service standards requirements.

In a statement issued late Tuesday evening, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said it "takes a serious view of telecom service disruptions" and "investigates all outages thoroughly". Service providers' efforts to restore services "without undue delay" is one key consideration.

The regulator also said it looked into whether adequate testing was done, and if processes were in line with industry and international best practices, before deciding that M1 had taken all reasonable measures to restore service as expeditiously as possible.

As for M1's five-hour service outage on February 4, it was caused by an "unknown" call-processing software bug that was "not within M1's control", IDA said.

The bug prevented customers from being authenticated on the telco's 2G, 3G and 4G networks. This resulted in customers not being able to make calls, connect to the Internet, and send or receive text messages.

An earlier six-hour outage in October 2013 occurred after a scheduled network upgrade, and could have affected about 23,000 subscribers in Ang Mo Kio, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong, Yishun and Woodlands.

IDA added that it will not hesitate to fine service providers that breach its requirements. Such was the case when M1 was fined $1.5 million for a 71-hour service outage in January 2013, and $300,000 for a 14-hour outage in May 2011.

However, IDA felt that that M1's public communications during latest the disruption "should have been better managed". The regulator said it had written to the telco expressing its dissatisfaction. Specifically, IDA requires telcos to improve communications to consumers during service disruptions by providing early and regular updates and assistance to users.

itham@sph.com.sg