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M1 fined record S$1.5M for Singapore's worst network outage

The telecoms regulator says the 3-day service disruption in January was caused by a power fault due to poor electrical installation practices, and inadequate risk assessment practices.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

Singapore telco M1 has been fined a record S$1.5 million (US$1.2 million) for its network outage in January this year, which lasted around three days.

Singapore telco M1
M1 fined record S$1.5 million for January network outage

The service disruption was caused by poor electrical installation practices and inadequate risk assessment when M1 was upgrading one of its network operation centers, according to regulator Infocomm Authority of Singapore (IDA) on Thursday.
"This had resulted in the emission of sparks and smoke which activated the gas suppression system, and in turn set off one of the water sprinklers, causing the failure of one of M1's mobile network switches," said IDA in a statement.

The regulator added M1 had not "exercised due care and diligence in ensuring sufficient safeguards to minimize the risks posed to its equipment and operations" during the January 15 upgrading works.

According to IDA's investigations, some 250,000 customer were affected. 3G mobile telephone services hit in the south-western parts of Singapore (West Coast, Jurong and Tuas), and 2G services were affected in the north-western parts of Singapore (Woodlands, Yishun and Kranji). 

The total duration of the 3G service disruption was 63 hours 15 mins, while 2G services were out for 71 hours 15 mins. 
M1's S$1.5 million fine, for contravening the Service Resiliency Code, is the highest ever imposed on a telco. This is more than three times that of the previous record fine on SingTel, when it was hit with a S$400,000 (US$320,000) penalty for a 3G outage in September 2011. The third largest fine belongs to M1 at S$300,000 (US$256,473) for a network disruption in May 2011.

M1's request to reduce fine rejected

In response to the fine, M1 said it was evaluating the regulator's decision. The telco added IDA had not agreed to its request to reduce the quantum of the fine "in light of our strong mitigating factors including our view that the incident was unexpected and beyond our reasonable control".

The telco pointed out it had commited S$116 million into network upgrades,  including the implementation of advanced Mobile Switching Centre pooling and deployment of a nationwide 3G radio network on the 900MHz frequency.

IDA said its decision took into account the extent of the outage, the recovery time taken, and mitigating factors such as end users being able to switch to either 2G and 3G networks. It had also considered M1's commitment to network investments.

New audit framework for telcos

The IDA will roll out a new audit framework to review the resiliency of the mobile networks regularly. This follows its completion of a review on all three telcos, SingTel, M1 and StarHub, in areas such as network design, technical processes, business continuity planning, and infrastructure.

The regulator noted that the network resilience and redundancy design, and facilities and infrastructure support system of the three mobile networks in Singapore generally meet international standards, and in some areas are amongst industry best practice. These include areas such as the adoption of geo-redundant network topology, and the implementation of resilient transmission backbone.

"Notwithstanding this, there is still room for improvement. Mobile operators could make enhancements in areas such as network design, by minimizing the number of single points of failure, upgrading network architecture to more advanced solutions to support full redundancy, and implementing better business continuity planning," said IDA.

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