I am on the road quite often and, as most of you have figured out in the meantime, a heavy user of 3G networks for Internet access. While I generally like the experience some network outages like this two and a half day nationwide full Internet access blackout in the Vodafone Germany network recently sends shivers down my spine. After all, we are not talking about a third class operator but one that claims to be a technology leader in the sector. As I use Vodafone Internet access a lot I was glad I was only impacted for half a day, having been in a DSL save haven for the rest of the time. If I had been on the road, however, this would have been a major disaster for me.
I wonder if the company that delivered the equipment that paralyzed the Vodafone network for two and a half days has to pay for the caused damage!? If it’s a small company then such a prolonged outage with millions of euros in lost revenue can easily put them out of business. And that doesn’t even consider the image loss for all parties involved and the financial loss of companies relying on Vodafone to provide Internet access. The name of the culprit was not released to the press but those working in the industry know very well what happened. Hard times for certain marketing people on the horizon…
Vodafone is certainly not alone facing such issues as I can observe occasional connection issues with other network operators as well. These, however, are usually short in nature and range from a couple of minutes to an hour or so. Bad enough.
To me, this shows several things:
- There is not a lot of redundancy built into the network.
- Disaster recovery and upgrade procedures are not very well thought trough as otherwise such prolonged outages would not happen.
- Short outages might be caused by software bugs and resetting devices.
- I think we might have reached a point where capacity of core network nodes have reached a level that the failure of one device triggers nationwide outages.
So maybe operators should start thinking in earnest about reversing the trend a bit and consider decentralization again to reduce the effect of fatal equipment failures. And maybe price should not be the only criteria to be considered in the future. Higher reliability and credible disaster recovery mechanisms which do not only work on paper might be worth something as well. An opportunity for network vendors to distinguish themselves?