At around 5 o’clock this morning, O2, our mobile provider, started to stop working. All over the country, bit by bit, access started dropping off.
The first I knew about it was at the gym. I’d ridden the bike and was halfway through my shoulder lifts when I looked at my phone. The familiar little 4G wasn’t there. There wasn’t a 3G, a 2G, an H or even the very odd E either. At that stage I didn’t even have a phone signal. Apart from standalone apps on my phone it was, effectively, just a camera.
As the day wore on, more and more people were being struck down as the problem grew. Not happy remaining here in the UK, the problem was also felt in Japan and other countries.
When the O2 techies found the problem they were quick to let everyone know that it was an issue with a bit of third party software. The third party turned out to be Ericsson and the software problem was an invalid certificate.
The outage went on for around 22 hours before full access had been returned to everyone on the various networks.
In my opinion, the way that O2 handled it in the UK was excellent. They immediately made a post on Twitter and this was picked up by the MSM and so the news spread. (They may have posted it on Facebook too but I don’t use it often enough to know.)
And, as the news spread, so did the complaints.
“I pay a fortune for my contract, will I get a rebate?” was a common one. This was quickly answered by many people suggesting that under their contract, it would work out to about 12p for not having access for a day.
A legitimate complaint was made by people who earn a living using their phones (Uber drivers were hit big). They wanted to know who was going to reimburse them for lost earnings. I suppose if you’re on a zero hours contract, you really don’t want a day’s work taken off you because of the phone company you use.
Possibly the silliest complaint was the number of people suggesting that people take the opportunity to stop staring at their phones and talk to people instead. A day without Candy Crunch wouldn’t kill them. Of course this only incensed the people who use their phones for work.
There was a right old flame war going on on Twitter but the best one was the people who complained about O2 announcing it on Twitter. Their problem with it was that the people affected wouldn’t be able to access Twitter to see the problem. Some Tweeters claimed it was ironic. This argument is just plain stupid. And not ironic at all.
The Internet is accessible through a number of means these days. Of course you can use your phone or a computer (both PC and Mac) or a tablet or any number of devices. Some people even use their fridges! Even if we assume that O2 users are incapable or unable to use a computer or a tablet, their phone would still work with wifi. Wifi is available in just about every coffee shop in this country (except Costa for some reason), on trains, some buses, lots of places.
On the flip side, how should O2 have told us about it? I guess they could have rung us. Except we number in excess of 30 million users. If you estimate a phone call of say five minutes each user, that makes 175,000,000 mins without factoring in dialling and waiting for the person to pick up.
This huge amount of minutes translates into 2,916,666 hours or 121,527 days or, over 300 years. Silly, right? (I guess they could have suddenly employed 300 people to call everyone over the day but they’d need phones and phone numbers for everyone…seriously, it just doesn’t work.)
Or, perhaps they could have written us all a letter and posted it…though it would have taken at least two days to reach us and quite a while printing letters and stuffing envelopes.
They also didn’t have enough pigeons. Or ravens to reach the far ends of Westeros.
Rather than indulge in this sort of archaic craziness, O2 decided to pull all of their staff off everything else in order to try and find the problem and fix it. By updating Twitter every now and then, it meant a minimal need for information delivery. Naturally their switchboard was open for people who like to talk to those sorts of things but it was very quickly swamped.
So, quickly and as efficiently as possible, they worked through the day and, eventually it was fixed. They were transparent and honest throughout the whole thing, (something the government could learn from) and, as a user, I felt I was kept in the loop.
I was quite stunned by the level of vitriol oozing out off Twitter about O2. I have been with them for a very long time and have never had a problem. As someone Tweeted yesterday, it’s been ten years since the last outage. To my thinking, this is pretty good value for money.
While it was a bad day for many, many people I reckon it was a great day for O2 and I think they deserve a pat on the back.
And I could still use my camera…