Total Inability To Support User Phones: O2 fries, burning data for 32 million Brits

‘Global’ network issue pinned on supplier – Ericsson ‘working’ on solution

Customers of O2, GiffGaff and virtual operators who use Telefonica’s network in the UK have been hit by a spectacular outage across the country. Transport information services have also been affected. Ericsson, whose central user database caused O2’s 2012 25-hour mega-outage[1], told The Reg: “We are aware of the issue and are working together with our customers to solve it as soon as possible.”

Phone calls and texts have been partially restored, but the networks involved can’t yet offer 4G data. Reports began to be filed[2] with DownDetector at around 4am, and O2 acknowledged the problem on Twitter at 07:00 GMT. O2 said[3] that “one of our third party suppliers has identified a global software issue in their system”.

It said other operators across the world were also affected.

Oh and the third party is not Huawei (I’ve asked).

— CyNic Fildes (@NicFildes) December 6, 2018[4]

It’s encouraging users to “use Wi-Fi wherever they can”. A wise move even when the O2 service is up. And the never-fails IT Crowd advice:

One of our 3rd party suppliers has identified a global software issue in their system which has impacted us.

Our technical team are working to get this back up ASAP. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this is causing. Please switch your phone off and on regularly to refresh it.

— O2 in the UK (@O2) December 6, 2018[5]

Telefonica owns O2, with 25 million customers, and GiffGaff (“the network run by you”), but is also used by millions more who use Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Lyca and TalkTalk’s operation.

The company estimated 32.1 million people[6] use its mobile network in the UK. Other services which rely on O2’s network, such as Transport for London’s live bus electronic timetable – and all the apps that make calls to the API – are also down. The Register understands the Countdown service’s SIMcards are on the O2 network as is the iBus system, which tracks the location of all of London’s 8,000+ buses[7]. As ever, we’d encourage people to remember that even without data reflecting such on the internet[8], the buses themselves continue to operate.

Technical faults with the Countdown Systems are ongoing.

We are continuing to work to rectify this issue.[9]

— TfL Bus Alerts (@TfLBusAlerts) December 6, 2018[10]

A TfL spokesperson told The Register: “We’re sorry that customers are unable to use our Countdown screens at bus stops for live travel information. This is a result of a nationwide O2 data outage. We are working with our service provider to resolve this as soon as possible.”

Some users are still reporting issues with voice calls. O2 is the second biggest mobile network in the country. Do you have any insight into the tech issues at Softbank, O2 or Ericsson?

Get in touch confidentially, here[11]. (R)

Updated at 15:33 GMT to add

The data services outage is still ongoing as London office workers begin to wrap up their day.

The part that is working – voice calls – is under pressure.

O2 said on its status page: “As a result of this incident, we are experiencing a high demand on our network, which means some customers may have issues making and receiving voice calls.”

Sponsored: Five steps to dealing with the insider threat[12]


  1. ^ central user database caused O2’s 2012 25-hour mega-outage (
  2. ^ filed (
  3. ^ said (
  4. ^ December 6, 2018 (
  5. ^ December 6, 2018 (
  6. ^ 32.1 million people (
  7. ^ London’s 8,000+ buses (
  8. ^ without data reflecting such on the internet (
  9. ^ (
  10. ^ December 6, 2018 (
  11. ^ here (
  12. ^ Five steps to dealing with the insider threat (

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