Telecommunications carrier must reflect seriously on service disruption

Mobile phone services are one of the most important pieces of infrastructure, indispensable to people’s lives. Customers had difficulty using their mobile phones for many hours and suffered extreme inconvenience as a result. KDDI Corp. must reflect seriously on this situation.

KDDI’s mobile phone services had problems with both voice calls and data communications across the nation from early Saturday morning. The disruption continued through Sunday afternoon, and restoration work took a long time.

Combined its main service brand “au” with others including KDDI’s “povo” and “UQ mobile” low-cost plans, KDDI said up to about 39.15 million subscriptions may have been affected.

The company said the problem occurred during the replacement of telecommunications equipment. It is unclear if there was any human error. To ensure this does not happen again, all efforts must be made to determine the cause of the problem in detail.

KDDI President Makoto Takahashi apologized at an emergency press conference on Sunday, saying, “As a telecommunications carrier that is in a position to support infrastructure and provide stable services, we deeply regret this incident.”

The disruption has highlighted the fact that problems with telecommunications networks can have a major impact on society, and KDDI should be aware of its heavy responsibility.

It became difficult to make emergency calls to fire departments and the police. Many customers rushed to au shops to inquire about the situation, as they could not make calls or use data communications on their mobile phones.

At major package delivery company Yamato Holdings Co., updates were halted on the system for customers to check delivery statuses, and at Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank, some of its automated teller machines went out of service.

The Japan Meteorological Agency’s aggregation of observation data was also disrupted.

With the spread of high-speed telecommunications networks, progress is expected to continue in the practical application of automated driving, remote surgery, disaster relief robots and other technologies. In the event of a telecommunications failure, there will certainly be even greater turmoil.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said it recognizes the failure as a “serious accident” defined by the Telecommunications Business Law. The ministry must examine the cause and KDDI’s responses and take strict action, including imposing administrative guidance.

In October last year, NTT Docomo, Inc. also experienced a major disruption. At that time, the ministry requested mobile phone companies to urgently examine their prevention measures against disruptions.

KDDI also said it was examining how secure its communications network was. It is problematic that the lessons learned were not applied.

It is essential for the ministry to recognize anew the growing importance of telecommunications as infrastructure and once again ask companies to strengthen their measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 4, 2022)