M1 under probe for prolonged service outage

Singapore's industry regulator says it has begun investigations into a service disruption that affected M1 customers over two days and reiterated the need for operators to ensure telecommunications services remain running during a time where many are working from home.

M1 is under investigation for a service outage that spanned two days and affected residents in several areas across Singapore. The service provider has attributed the cause to "a network issue" that impacted subscribers of its fibre broadband service. 

In its first update on May 12 morning, M1 acknowledged on its Facebook page that customers in some areas in the western, central, and eastern parts of the island might be experiencing difficulties with its fibre services. At 6am the next day, it said all fibre services had been fully restored, but revealed around four hours later that some customers were still unable to connect to their broadband service. 

It was only past 2pm on May 13, more than 30 hours after the service outage was first noted, that broadband access was fully restored. 

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In a Facebook post on Wednesday, industry regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said it took "a serious view" of any disruption to public telecommunications services, particularly during the country's "circuit breaker" period where many were working and studying from home. 

In a move to contain the spread of COVID-19, Singapore had introduced a circuit breaker period during which non-essential businesses were forced to close and all of their employees required to work from home. Schools were also shut, with students continuing their studies through home-based learning.

IMDA said it had instructed M1 to restore services swiftly and update its subscribers on the progress. The regulator added that its investigation into the service disruption has commenced and "strong enforcement action" would be meted out if lapses were found on M1's part. 

In a post on Thursday, M1 said the technical faults were not due to a cyber attack, insufficient capacity, or outdated equipment, but the result of a "network bolstering initiative" carried out to enhance customer experience. It did not elaborate on what this was exactly. 

It said affected customers would be given a one-week rebate on their bill. 

The latest incident followed last month's service disruption that affected StarHub home broadband customers. The operator had to deal with two service disruptions, one of which was triggered by faulty network equipment while the other was due to a network issue involving a DNS that handled internet traffic routing. Both incidents had occurred on the same day. 

IMDA then dished out a similar rebuke for StarHub, stressing the need to maintain robust public telecommunications services during a time where many relied on home connectivity. The regulator also investigated the operator for the service outage.

M1 attributed its service disruption to "a network issue", but has not provided further details apart from advising customers to turn off and on their ONT (Optical Network Terminal) and router to restore fibre connection. The service provider said it carried out "urgent fibre system maintenance" during the early hours of May 13 in a bid to resolve the issue. 

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