Industry-wide efforts needed to prevent recurrence of mobile network outage

If a major system failure occurs on a mobile phone network, it can affect not only voice calls but also a wide range of services, including home deliveries, causing disruptions in society. It is essential for the entire telecommunications industry to devise measures to prevent a recurrence.

KDDI Corp. has reported to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry that more than 30.91 million users experienced difficulties with voice calls and data communications due to a massive network disruption that occurred earlier this month.

The system outage lasted for about 61½ hours, from the early hours of July 2 to the afternoon of July 4, and it took 86 hours for the company to fully restore services.

This is one of the largest mobile phone system failures in history. KDDI must take the matter seriously and bear in mind the weight of its responsibility in maintaining infrastructure.

In a report submitted to the ministry, KDDI stated that the system failure was caused by a misconfiguration during the maintenance and inspection of telecommunications equipment. The error resulted in excessive concentrations of communication data on some switching equipment, which overloaded the system.

At a press conference on Friday, KDDI President Makoto Takahashi acknowledged that human error was the cause of the glitch and listed measures to prevent a recurrence, including a review of work procedures and the establishment of processes to deal with concentrated communication traffic. The company must implement these measures without fail.

The ministry intends to issue administrative guidance to KDDI on the grounds that the system failure constituted a “serious accident” under the Telecommunications Business Law. The government also needs to examine thoroughly whether the measures presented by KDDI are sufficient.

When a major system outage occurred at NTT Docomo, Inc. last autumn, the ministry asked telecom companies to urgently inspect their countermeasures. Even so, a major system failure happened again. It is hoped that the ministry will give the entire industry thorough guidance this time.

The latest outage made it difficult for users to make emergency calls to police and firefighters. There were reportedly cases in which elderly people who fell ill and people lost in the mountains were unable to make emergency calls.

The ministry intends to consider as a countermeasure the introduction of emergency roaming, which would allow people to use the lines of other carriers’ networks in the event of a system failure.

Although there are said to be many challenges, such as system modifications and cost burdens, the government and industry should expedite efforts so at the very least emergency calls can be made when lives are at risk.

Meanwhile, KDDI announced that it will deduct ¥200 from the bills of about 36.55 million customers as an “apology.”

The company will also deduct an average of ¥104 from the bills of 2.78 million customers with voice-call-only contracts, who were unable to make voice calls for at least 24 hours, based on their terms and conditions.

In addition to such responses, it is also important for the company to explain in detail preventive measures and other relevant matters in order to dispel users’ concerns.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2022)