Singtel slapped with fine for broadband service outage

Singapore telco has been fined S$500,000 (US$369,946) for a service disruption last December that lasted nearly a day and caused by a scheduled DHCP security patch update.

Singtel has been slapped with a S$500,000 (US$369,946) fine for a fibre broadband service outage that lasted nearly 24 hours last December.

The disruption on December 3, 2016, affected almost 90 percent of Singtel's SingNet subscribers, with service progressively restored, said Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in a statement Monday. It said the financial amount was decided based on several mitigating factors, including compensation SingNet offered to affected subscribers, measures adopted to prevent a recurrence, and cooperation with IMDA during the investigation process.

The industry regulator said it determined the incident was caused by a planned maintenance SingNet had conducted on its Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) servers. The service provider was installing security patches, which overloaded the systems and rendered them unable to process requests for IP addresses. SingNet subscribers, hence, were unable to access the internet.

IMDA noted that while the maintenance was planned, it said there were warning signs that should have indicated a potential system overload.

"The utilisation rate of SingNet's DHCP servers had been steadily increasing and were running at 80 percent to 90 percent levels, even before the incident," the government agency said. "SingNet had failed to take prompt action to address the high utilisation loads before the incident."

IMDA added that the service provider, in light of the high utilisation levels, should have practised greater due diligence as well as caution when scheduling the deployment of security patches to prevent a system overload.

It said SingNet's oversight breached the industry's Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resiliency. The Singtel subsidiary since had upgraded its DHCP servers and performed a review of its broadband network architecture to improve its resiliency, said IMDA.

Singtel in May 2014 was hit with a record S$6 million (US$4.44 million) fine for an October 2013 fire that brought down multiple communications services and affected 270,000 subscribers, including government agencies and financial institutions.

The blaze damaged fibre cables and base stations, halting fixed voice, broadband, and mobile services, as well as ATM services across the country. The incident impacted not only Singtel's own customers but customers of other telcos. The telco had blamed the fire on maintenance work at one of its lead-in pipes located in the cable chamber, during which an employee used an unauthorised blowtorch .