Three Is Fined £1.9m For 999 Call Failure

Ofcom fines Three after discovering potential weak spot in the way its network handles emergency calls

Three has been fined £1.9 million after it failed to ensure customers could contact emergency services due to a weakness in its network handles calls to 999.

An investigation following an outage in parts of south east England last October discovered that such calls were routed through a data centre, creating a single point of failure that could have prevented people from reaching an operator.

Three’s network should have been able to able to automatically divert emergency calls through alternative routes in the event of a local outage, but because all traffic passed through this single data centre this would have failed.

Metropolitan Police

Three emergency services

In the event, Three added an additional backup route to carry emergency traffic but regulator Ofcom’s requirement that anyone is guaranteed to reach the emergency services was breached.

Ofcom says the severity of the fine represents the seriousness of the breach but added that Three had not acted recklessly or deliberately and had cooperated fully with the investigation.

“Telephone access to the emergency services is extremely important, because failures can have serious consequences for people’s safety and wellbeing,” said Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Enforcement and Investigations Director.

“Today’s fine serves as a clear warning to the wider telecoms industry. Providers must take all necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services.”

Three said it had taken steps to remedy the situation and stressed that this vulnerability had no impact on customers, only that it was a potential weak spot.

“Providing our customers with uninterrupted access to emergency services is a requirement we take extremely seriously,” said the operator.

“Three therefore acknowledges Ofcom’s decision today to fine Three for a single point of vulnerability on Three’s network. However, this vulnerability has not had any impact on our customers and only relates to a potential point of failure in Three’s network.

“Ofcom identified this vulnerability when investigating a separate, unprecedented and unforeseeable October 2016 fibre break outage on Three’s network. This resulted in a temporary loss of emergency call services affecting some customers. Three took immediate action and the issue was quickly resolved.

“Ofcom recognises that the circumstances surrounding the October 2016 fibre break outage were exceptional and outside of Three’s control.  As a result, the incident itself was not a breach of Ofcom’s rules.

“Ofcom has also recognised today that Three has cooperated fully during its investigation and has taken steps to further strengthen the resilience of Three’s network.

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