IMDA hits StarHub and M1 with fines for Internet outages during circuit breaker

Two of Singapore’s biggest Internet service providers, StarHub and M1, have been hit with fines totaling $610,000 from the IMDA for broadband disruptions affecting Singaporeans during the circuit breaker period.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) imposed fines of $210,000 on StarHub and $400,000 on M1 for breaking the 2016 Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resilience.

“We take a serious view of any service disruption to public telecommunications services, particularly during the circuit breaker period when most people were working and studying from home, and will take firm and decisive action to safeguard our consumers’ interests,” said Aileen Chia, the IMDA Deputy Chief Executive.

The IMDA determined the financial penalties by considering the duration, impact, and customer service measures adopted by the operators to mitigate impact

“Operators must communicate any service difficulties with their customers and rectify incidents expeditiously, and should provide good service recovery measures to affected customers,” added Ms. Chia.

250,000 StarHub subscribers affected

On April 15, just eight days after the circuit breaker began, StarHub staff made a configuration error during a planned network migration exercise.

The mistake left up to 250,000 StarHub broadband subscribers without sufficient broadband services for close to five hours.

The IMDA concluded the incident could have been prevented if StarHub had better supervised its staff during the migration exercise.

In it’s considerations, IMDA took note of StarHub’s efforts to restore the services as soon as possible, their prompt communication and compensation to those affected with a 20% rebate of their monthly fee for April.

StarHub’s Chief Executive, Peter Kaliaropoulos, said in April they ‘regrettably fell short’ of providing a service experience customers deserve and have implemented measures to prevent future incidents with immediate effect.

Two days of outages for M1 customers

For M1, the broadband provider experienced two incidents on two consecutive days in May.

The first on May 12 affected up to 18,000 customers for 23 hours from 7am until 6am on May 13. This was caused by a corrupted profile database in M1’s Broadband Network Gateway.

A statement by M1 apologies for the inconvenience and said the connectivity issues were triggered by a network bolstering initiative to improve customer experience.

The IMDA found that the incident occured because M1’s staff and vendor had not followed prescribed procedures.

Then, on May 13, up to 20,000 subscribers were affected for six hours after a software fault in M1’s network equipment caused Internet traffic routing problems.

Unlike the first incident, the IMDA concluded that the software fault was the first of its kind for the equipment, which M1 could not have reasonably foreseen or prevented.

The IMDA found M1 to be in breach of the 2016 Code for only the first incident, and determined the $400,000 penalty due to the length of disruption and M1’s proactive compensation of a full one-week refund to affected users.

Ms. Chia said the IMDA will continue to work with operators like StarHub and M1 to strengthen network resiliency and improve customer communications.

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Philippines telecom market powers through in spite of COVID-19

In April, W.Media reported that due to COVID-19, the Philippines’ newest telecom company, DITO Telecommunity, was forced to delay its launch due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The fixed-line market in the Philippines is said to be underdeveloped with low penetration in the broadband market due to low investment in digital infrastructure and rapid development of mobile technologies. 

But today, the Philippines could still see a silver lining in spite of difficult circumstances, as interest in improving digital infrastructures and building new data centers is rising. 

Two of the largest telecom companies, PDLT and Globe Telecom, are making continual moves to upgrade existing infrastructure.

PDLT will continue to accelerate its network modernisation program, shifting from copper to fibre, and their subsidiary Smart Communications teamed up with Google to deploy Wi-Fi hubs across the country. 

Smart and Globe have also pledged to participate in network sharing with DITO, signalling a willingness to speed up network rollouts like 5G and break up the long-standing duopoly held by PDLT and Globe.

DITO’s entrance to the Filipino market held similar ambitions, which is why it is also predicted that market competition in the country is expected to intensify from 2021, less than four months away.

In other exciting news, a new subsea cable, JUPITER, that links the Philippines with Japan and the U.S. has gained approval from the U.S. government and will be completed by 2021.

However, the pandemic crisis has left its mark on the telecom industry, with supply chains halted and job cuts slowing down construction of infrastructures, postponing the rollout of 5G and halting consumer demand for services. 

As to how Filipino consumers would respond to market competition, a reduced but steady and positive growth is predicted. This is because COVID-19 has proven that access to general communication is crucial to live life under the ‘new normal’ where technology is needed to support home-working.

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Major Internet outage in the UK affects thousands, including W.Media’s Editor

A major Internet outage in the UK is affecting thousands of users across the country, including W.Media’s Editor.

The tracking website, Downdetector, indicated a huge spike in connectivity problems from 10:15am UK time for providers including British Telecoms, Sky Broadband and more.

Problems for the Internet provider, TalkTalk, had reached a massive 31,617 reports by 11am on Downdetector.

W.Media’s Editor, Stuart Crowley, who is currently based in the UK, noticed the Internet outage and began to see many others on Twitter share the same connectivity issues whilst working from home.

One user tweeted: “Some of my staff are having speed problems connecting to our site from their home Virgin Media broadband connections this morning. A quick look suggests the problem is around a Telia server. From another ISP, it doesn’t go the same route and works fine.”

Coincidentally, Google also suffered problems on their platforms, including Gmail, YouTube and Google Drive.

At the time of the outage, both Google and TalkTalk suggested their services were up and running.

Ditly, a Technical Data Analysis provider in the UK, posted on Twitter: “TalkTalk and BT Internet seem to be down. Custom DNS doesn’t seem to fix it and it’s only impacting some online services such as Google, Netflix, Snapchat, not everything. I’m thinking it may just be connections leaving the UK that are having issues?”

If a cause is discovered, the latest information will be provided here, as long as we have the Internet connectivity to do so.