M1 fined record S$1.5 million for service disruption

M1 fined record S$1.5 million for service disruption
M1 mobile telephone services were affected in the south-western and north-western parts of Singapore during the disruption in January. TODAY file photo
IDA to implement new audit framework to review resiliency of mobile networks regularly
Published: 4:03 AM, October 4, 2013
Updated: 1:10 AM, October 5, 2013
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SINGAPORE — M1, the smallest local telco, has been hit with the biggest penalty yet for such a company here: A record S$1.5 million fine for a mobile service outage that affected about 250,000 of its subscribers.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), which investigated the Jan 15-18 incident, said: “M1 had not fulfilled its obligation to provide resilient mobile telephone services.”

In a statement yesterday, the authority also announced that it will be implementing a new audit framework to review the “resiliency of the mobile networks” regularly and will work with the telcos to ensure minimal disruptions to consumers.

During the M1 outage, 3G mobile telephone services were affected in the south-western parts of Singapore — West Coast, Jurong and Tuas — for about 63 hours; and 2G mobile telephone services were disrupted in the north-western areas — Woodlands, Yishun and Kranji — for about 71 hours.

In deciding the amount of the fine, the IDA said it considered the “serious impact” on consumers and businesses, the extent of the disruption and the time taken to restore services. However, it also took into account mitigating factors, such as M1’s commitment to invest in network upgrades, which the IDA will “closely track”.

The previous record fine of S$400,000 was handed out by the IDA in May last year to SingTel Mobile for 3G mobile-service disruptions in September 2011. Those disruptions, lasting 22 hours, caused some of SingTel Mobile’s subscribers in the central region of the island to experience intermittent difficulties in making and receiving calls through the 3G network. They also had trouble accessing SMS, MMS and mobile-data services.

On the M1 fine, the IDA said investigations showed that the service disruption was caused by the telco’s “failure to ensure good electrical installation practices” during upgrading work at a network operation centre. This resulted in the gas suppression and water sprinklers being set off, causing the mobile network switch to fail.

It added that the telco had not carried out adequate risk assessment on the upgrading work.

“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.”

It also did not have “sufficiently rigorous control and supervision of the upgrading process, despite the work being carried out at a key infrastructure node housing sensitive telecoms equipment”, the authority said.

Reacting to the fine, M1 said: “IDA did not agree with our reconsideration request to reduce the quantum of the fine in light of our strong mitigating factors, including our view that the incident was unexpected and beyond our reasonable control. We are, accordingly, evaluating the decision.”

The authority yesterday also gave updates on its review of the mobile network resiliency of all three telcos — M1, StarHub and SingTel.

It found that their network resilience and redundancy design, and facilities and infrastructure support system generally meet international standards. But areas such as network design and business continuity planning could be improved, the IDA said.

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