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O2 scraps Ericsson database after second major network outage

U.K. cell network O2 has cut off Ericsson after its technology led to a second major outage in just a few months.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

O2 is removing key Ericsson technology from its network, following two outages this year that led to widespread customer disruption across the U.K.

After a second outage earlier this month, which cut off two million customers from the network for more than 20 hours, O2 announced in a blog post that the country's second largest network will no longer use Ericsson's technology, which was also blamed for an earlier outage in July.

The July outage led to as many as 7 million of the firm's 21--22 million customers -- or a third of its U.K. customer base -- with expensive paperweights as phones, after phone calls wouldn't connect and data services were cut off. A post-mortem discovered that O2's transition to Ericsson's Centralized User Database left millions of phones unable to 'authenticate' with the network, according to The Register.

Following the outage, affected O2 customers were recompensed with a 10 percent bill discount for July. 

Ericsson's database technology allows SIM cards to register to O2's network and giving users' access to the network. But O2's chief operating officer Derek McManus said the firm is "not prepared to risk this happening to our customers for a third time and are implementing a proven alternative solution."

McManus also said the firm will spend an additional £10 million ($16.1m) on the transition away from the Ericsson database, on top of the £1.5 million ($2.4m) it spends on infrastructure every day.

While the move is good news for O2 and its customers, Ericsson's technology is firmly in the spotlight following the two major outages -- the worst O2 has suffered in years. As The Register explains, O2 isn't cutting all its ties with Ericsson as the mobile giant outsourced its entire mobile network infrastructure to the Swedish telecoms equipment maker in 2009.

It's even likely that Ericsson will be at the top of the list to supply new technology as the firm moves away from Ericsson's database technology. That said, Huawei may also be on the shiny new server shortlist after the Chinese telecoms maker won an contract with O2 earlier this year

In spite of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee across the pond, the U.K. remains invested in Huawei technology, even though the U.K. Parliament is starting to warm up to the idea that Huawei may be bad news -- even though there is little proof in the pudding that Huawei has actually done anything wrong beyond suspicion.

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