Today I have a practical example of how monopolizing access and outsourcing network operation ends up in the ultimate customer disappointment: Network coverage in tunnels and the inability of the network operator to fix it.
I really like using public transport for my commuting. As part of my daily commute, the trains I usually take go through a pretty long tunnel under Cologne/Bonn airport. That’s usually not a problem as there is 3G network coverage during the 5 minutes the train is in the tunnel. For the past 3 weeks however, the system is broken. The base stations are still on air but the backhaul seems to be cut-off as I get RRCConnectionReject messages with reason “Congestion” and a backoff timer (nice implementation).
At first I hoped it would be temporary but after three weeks without any improvement I decided to open a ticket with my mobile network operator. I got an answer pretty quickly that they were aware of the problem but were unable to do anything because the repeater setup in the tunnel is managed for all network operators by one of the other mobile network operators.
I have a bit of insight into what is happening at that other operator In the past the setup was working great as they wanted to offer good service to their customer and maintained those common systems themselves. Unfortunately the bean counters have taken over in the meantime and as a result, repeater installation maintenance was outsourced to a company abroad. Since then outages of several weeks are not uncommon anymore.
There you have it, the perfect storm: A monopoly coupled with outsourcing and loosing control of your operation. There is more to fixed than just coverage in that tunnel…