Singapore mobile operator let off the hook over service outage

M1 will not have to pay a fine for a five-hour service disruption in February 2014 because it wasn't responsible for a software bug in its switches that caused the downtime, says the country's regulator.

M1 has walked away without having to pay a fine for a service disruption last February because the glitch had been the result of a software bug that the mobile operator could not have controlled.

The five-hour outage on February 4 last year left customers unable to make or receive calls and send or receive text messages, while others running on 2G and 3G networks could not access mobile data. M1 had attributed the glitch to an issue with its call-processing software, which blocked its customers' devices from registering on the network.

The service disruption was then the second in a month for the operator, during which a "software bug" took the blame for bringing down its mobile data network for six hours. A year ago, M1 had suffered a three-day disruption due to a power fault, resulting in Singapore's worst network outage thus far, and was fined S$1.5 million by local ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

For the February 2014 incident, however, M1 was not deemed responsible for the service disruption because the cause was an "unknown" software bug in the call-processing software and was "not within M1's control", IDA said in a statement Wednesday.

As such, the mobile operator had not violated Singapore's Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resiliency and would not have to be financially penalized, the regulator said.

In its investigations, IDA said it reviewed various factors "such as whether adequate testing was conducted and whether operators' processes were in line with industry and international best practices".

"It was assessed that M1 had taken all reasonable measures to restore service as expeditiously as possible," the regulator noted. However, it said the operator could have better managed its communications to consumers during the service outage.

"IDA had expressed its dissatisfaction on this to M1, and required them to improve its communications to consumers during service disruptions by providing early and regular updates and assistance to users," it added. "IDA has also imposed tighter regulatory requirements on operators to provide more timely updates to affected users during service outage incidents."

There was no mention on whether the manufacturer of the buggy call-processing software should be held responsible for the glitch.

Following the service disruptions last February, Singapore's Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim had expressed his concerns in a Facebook post. "I was dismayed when I found out that the M1 service was down again... It has been a frustrating experience for M1 customers, especially having just experienced other disruptions in very recent months.

"While no network service is fool-proof, telcos can improve in the way they update and assist their customers when disruptions occur. We should expect better service," said Yaacob, who noted that SingTel customers had also experienced service disruptions during that time.

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