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16 June 2017
| James Pearce
Three UK has been hit with a £1.9 million fine by regulator Ofcom over a failure to ensure its customers could contact the emergency services at all times.
UK mobile operators are subject to rules that mean customers
must be able to make emergency calls, but an investigation by
Ofcom "uncovered a weakness in the mobile
operator’s emergency call network."
On 6 October 2016, CK Hutchison-owned Three suffered a
temporary network outage across London, Kent and Hampshire.
Ofcom’s investigation into the outage found
emergency calls from customers affected were being routed
through a data centre, leaving Three’s customers
vulnerable to a single point of failure.
Under Ofcom’s rules, operators must guarantee
that their network can divert emergency calls down alternative
routes in the event of a local outage. Because
Three’s network was passing through a single data
centre, such back-up routes would have also failed.
Ofcom said that while the vulnerability in
Three’s network may not have impacted any
customers, the weakness was still in breach of the rules set
out by the regulator, fining Three £1.89 million due to
the seriousness of the potential impact of any failures.
Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Enforcement and
Investigations Director, said: "Telephone access to the
emergency services is extremely important, because failures can
have serious consequences for people’s safety and
"Today’s fine serves as a clear warning to the
wider telecoms industry. Providers must take all necessary
steps to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency
The issue highlights the importance for mobile operators in
offering diverse routes to support their mobile services.
Three now has 20 days to pay the fine, which was reduced by
30% to reflect the co-operation offered by Three during
Ofcom’s investigation. Ofcom also acknowledged
that Three has now taken steps to comply with the rule.
In a statement, Three UK said it takes offering
uninterrupted access to emergency services "extremely
seriously". It said the vulnerability was identified while the
operator experienced an unprecedented fibre break outage in
"Providing our customers with uninterrupted access to
emergency services is a requirement we take extremely
seriously. Three therefore acknowledges Ofcom’s
decision today to fine Three for a single point of
vulnerability on Three’s network. However, this
vulnerability has not had any impact on our customers and only
relates to a potential point of failure in Three’s
"Ofcom recognises that the circumstances surrounding the
October 2016 fibre break outage were exceptional and outside of
Three’s control. As a result, the incident
itself was not a breach of Ofcom’s rules.
"Ofcom has also recognised today that Three has
cooperated fully during its investigation and has taken steps
to further strengthen the resilience of Three’s