O2 Admits Data Network Failure

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O2 has admitted responsibility for some iPhone users being unable to connect to the Internet over the past 48 hours, but has so far failed to resolve the problem

A fault on O2’s data network has prevented thousands of iPhone users from connecting to the Internet or using web-based applications over the last 48 hours. The mobile operator has blamed the crash on “a fault with the allocation of IP addresses”, and claims to be fixing the problem.

Affected iPhone users trying to access the Internet are greeted with the message “Could not activate cellular data network”, according to the Telegraph. O2 has not revealed how many of its customers have been affected, but claims that the problem is “not geographical”.

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O2 first admitted that there was a problem with the network yesterday, when it posted the following message on its Twitter page: “We’re sorry that some mobile customers have had problems with data today – these services will be back up tonight.” However, Twitter has failed to meet that deadline and appears to still be having problems.

In November, O2 promised to spend hundred of millions of pounds overhauling its much-criticised mobile network in order to give it ‘significant headroom for mobile data’ and to meet the rising demand for mobile broadband. “Our £500 million investment over the last two years has enabled us to offer our customers the best products in the world, including the Apple iPhone and Palm Pre,” said Derek McManus, chief technology officer for O2 in the UK, at the time.

However, mobile networks have continued to creak under the strain of mobile broadband. With services such as Skype, Facebook and Youtube using unlimited amounts of data, and operators charging a flat rate for access, data volumes are likely to rise faster than the revenue used to build networks.

“Everyone is selling something they don’t have possession of, and the cost and revenue are not linked,” said Andrew Bud, chairman of mobile billing company mBlox at the Future of Mobile event, run by Westminster eForum in October. “There will be an initial boost but it will then come crashing down, unless there is a radical change in the business model.”

The risk of mobile data outages have been well publicised over the last year. Analyst firm Informa warned in October that mobile data traffic is set to increase 25 fold by 2012, and said that mobile operators need to take action in order to imminent data traffic jams.

The warning was echoed by Graham Currier, Chief Operating Officer at WiMax backer Freedom4. “Currently the GSM networks cannot cope [with the demand for mobile broadband],” Currier told eWEEK Europe. “You cannot expect voice networks to suddenly triple their capacity, and what happens when it fills up is that my voice call gets dropped.”


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