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Singapore minister 'dismayed' over mobile outages

Singapore government expresses concerns over the frequency of mobile network outages and calls for better service from local telcos, following service disruptions involving two operators this week.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

The Singapore government has expressed concerns over the frequency of mobile network outages and called for better service from local telcos, following service disruptions involving two operators this week. 

M1 sent an SMS to customers apologizing for its outage.

M1 on Tuesday suffered yet another service outage--its second in a month--during which customers were unable to make or receive calls and send or receive text messages. Some customers running on 2G and 3G networks also could not access mobile data.

The operator just last month was hit by a "software bug" that brought down its mobile data network for six hours. A year ago, it 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 industry regulator, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. 

The smallest of three mobile operators in Singapore, M1 later attributed this week's outage, which lasted over five hours, to an issue with its call-processing software that blocked its customers' devices from registering on the network. 

The next day, the company sent an SMS signed off by CEO Karen Kooi to its customers, apologizing for the downtime and offering free local mobile calls, SMS, and MMS service for a day this Sunday. 

A day after M1's outage, the country's largest carrier SingTel also suffered an outage during which some customers were unable to access mobile data, though voice and SMS services were unaffected. A company spokesperson said the disruption was due to "a server glitch" and services resumed within 20 minutes.

The outages prompted Singapore's Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim to expressed his concerns in a Facebook post Wednesday:  

"I was dismayed when I found out that the M1 service was down again yesterday. It has been a frustrating experience for M1 customers, especially having just experienced other disruptions in very recent months. They had given the feedback that M1 could have done better in providing updates and communicating to its subscribers when the services resumed. IDA will be carrying out its investigation. I have asked them, as the regulator, to have M1 ensure that its network functions optimally. I understand SingTel users have also experienced intermittent access to 3G and 4G services today. 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."

IDA said it instructed M1 to identify the cause of the outage, adding that it would also carry out its own investigation before deciding the appropriate course of action.

"IDA is concerned with the outage, taking into consideration other outages that happened to M1 in the past year. As services were disrupted for about six hours, causing inconvenience to many mobile users, IDA has required M1 to carry out a thorough investigation on the cause of the outage," it said in a Facebook post. "Under the Telecommunication Service Resiliency Code, operators are required to ensure that the design of their networks and services are resilient to service outages, and when outages do occur, to ensure that they restore services quickly."

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