What just happened?! 02 data outage
7 December 2018
A different week, a different tech black-out. At the time of our last blog we saw John Lewis suffer at the hands of humankind’s techno-offspring. This time the telecoms giant O2 has taken the headlines, and our reliance on technological infrastructure abruptly shows itself.
We’re less than a week into the month of festive merriment and a massive data outage has caused wide disruption to O2’s twenty-five million UK customers, not to mention the other seven million who subscribe to various O2 affiliates. Those of us who were not affected probably watched on with vague sympathy or missed this glitch in the system altogether. For many, though, it’s been a genuinely chaotic and dangerous experience.
Now, imagine you’re sitting in a wholesome countryside pub. You’ve got a glass of mulled wine in your hand. But in the other you’re frantically waving your phone above your head (we all still do this…right?!), waiting for a bar of 4G to appear in the corner of the screen (the damn signal out there in the sticks can be terrible!). “Chaotic” and “dangerous” would be over-the-top adjectives to describe this situation.
When millions of people simultaneously can’t access their 4G network, daily life can be turned on its head. In London, the O2 blackout caused electronic bus timetables to break down. Businesses in Manchester had trouble receiving payments, resulting in lost custom and in turn, this frustrated the christmas shopping plans of cashless folk. One of the most worrying stories came from a man who struggled to contact emergency services after his wife collapsed during the data outage.
Life could only be this seriously disrupted in a world where human connectivity depends heavily upon technology. O2’s explanation for the outage is faulty software, a phenomenon that is generally considered to be a worrying inevitability -even in this day and age! Ofcom has even said that in such cases customers should not necessarily expect refunds although O2 has chosen to offer compensation this time.
The question of how to deal with future technological glitches is a serious one worth pondering, however. Especially during a time when our reliance on technology has never been more obvious.