M1 Fined $1.5m for Mobile Service Outage

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Telco M1 has been fined S$1.5 million by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) for the disruption of its 2G and 3G mobile services. It is the highest financial penalty meted out under the Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resiliency.

M1’s 2G and 3G mobile telephone services were disrupted from 15-18 January this year. In a statement on Thursday, the IDA said that it found M1 “had not fulfilled its obligation to provide resilient mobile telephone services”.

The regulator found that some 250,000 M1 users were affected. Affected 3G services were confined in the south-western parts of Singapore (West Coast, Jurong and Tuas) and 2G services in the north-western parts of Singapore (Woodlands, Yishun and Kranji). 3G mobile services were disrupted for 63 hours and 15 minutes. 2G mobile services were disrupted for 71 hours and 15 minutes.

IDA said the service disruption was caused by M1’s failure to ensure good electrical installation practices when carrying out power termination during upgrading works on 15 January this year at one of its network operation centres. A network operation centre is a key telecom infrastructure node that houses essential network equipment.

IDA said this resulted in the emission of sparks and smoke which activated the gas suppression system. This then set off one of the water sprinklers which caused the failure of one of M1’s mobile network switches. IDA assessed that M1 had not carried out adequate risk assessment on the upgrading works.

M1 had not exercised due care and diligence in ensuring sufficient safeguards to minimise the risks posed to its equipment and operations when carrying out its upgrading works, said IDA. IDA noted that M1 did not have sufficiently rigorous control and supervision of the upgrading process even though the works were being carried out at a key infrastructure node housing sensitive telecoms equipment.

IDA noted that M1 had carried out progressive restoration works in phases and given priority to high traffic areas. In deciding on the financial penalty, IDA considered mitigating factors such as the fact that M1’s end users in the south-western and north-western parts of Singapore were able to switch to the 2G and 3G mobile networks to use their mobile services.

IDA also took into consideration M1’s commitment to invest in network upgrades to enhance service resiliency to prevent similar occurrences in the future. IDA said it will closely track and validate M1’s implementation of the committed network upgrades to enhance the resiliency of its network.

In a separate statement, M1 said IDA did not agree with the telco’s request to reconsider reducing the quantum of the fine in light of its strong mitigating factors. M1 said the incident in January this year was “unexpected and beyond” its reasonable control.

We understand that M1 is at fault for not taking care for this. But, what is the point to fine them and the end user gets nothing except the news? M1 gets fine, they may consider to increase some of they service in the future to cover this amount back. So, the end user are the one that is going to pay for this end of the day. It is not like the fine will go back to all of the M1 user at the end. We have no idea what is the point of this fine.

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