O2 struggles to fix outage amid worry Olympics will hit networks

LONDON, July 12 Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:45am EDT

LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) - British mobile operator O2 was still battling to reconnect many of its customers on Thursday, a day after connections went down, raising concern about how it will cope with a jump in demand during the London Olympics in just a few weeks' time.

O2, owned by Spain's Telefonica, said on Thursday morning that it had restored its 2G network, enabling customers to make and receive calls, but its 3G network was not completely fixed, meaning many still could not send texts or use data.

The problem started on Wednesday afternoon, when O2 said some customers were having difficulty making or receiving calls, sending texts or using data.

"It was a fault with one of our network systems which has meant some mobile phone numbers are not registering correctly on our network," said a spokesman for the company, which has 23 million British users.

"Our 3G service is starting to restore and customers should expect to see a gradual return of data services as the day progresses," he added. The fault is estimated to have affected "hundreds of thousands" of customers, the spokesman said.

Britain's mobile networks are expected to come under unprecedented pressure in the next few weeks from visitors to London for the Olympic Games, many of whom will be wielding smartphones to take and send pictures and video and to access the Internet.

Analyst Steven Hartley at Ovum Telecoms Strategy said the outage raised concerns about the Olympics' impact on the UK's telecoms infrastructure.

"The huge influx of visitors to London ahead of the games will cause network traffic spikes, putting pressure on the UK's mobile networks," he said.

"While UK mobile operators claim to be prepared, they have not yet given indication of the scale of their plans."

He added that while mobile capacity upgrades at key transport and crowd hotspots would undoubtedly take place before the Games, less well-prepared peripheral sites could prove disastrous.

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