O2 service outage raises network concerns ahead of the Olympics

12 July 2012 |


A major network fault in the UK has left thousands of O2 customers unable to use their mobile phones for a second day, raising further concerns about the readiness of the nation’s telecoms infrastructure ahead of the London Olympics.

It is unknown exactly how many of O2’s 23 million customers have been affected by the problem which began at approximately 1.00pm GMT yesterday afternoon. A repair team, however, was able to restore its 2G network service overnight.

The company issued an apology on its website but was unable to clarify when exactly full 3G services will be resumed: "Our 3G service is starting to restore and customers should expect to see a gradual return of data services as the day progresses,” said the statement. "Customers affected may wish to try switching their mobile phones off and on as service returns."

The outage comes just weeks ahead of the start of the 2012 Olympics, which is expected to attract an estimated 11 million visitors to London between July and August. This huge influx of visitors is expected to cause a network traffic spike that will put further pressure on the UK’s mobile networks.

Steven Hartley, practice leader of Ovum’s telecoms strategy team, said that the UK’s mobile networks already “have a poor reputation compared to others in western Europe” and that while many UK mobile operators claim to be prepared, “they have not yet given indication of the scale of their plans”.

“Mobile capacity upgrades at key transport and crowd hotspots will undoubtedly take place before the games. However, if there is a major public transport failure, the spilling over of people from a location where high network traffic has been anticipated to less well-prepared peripheral cells could prove disastrous,” said Hartley.

“We hope that our concerns are unfounded and the games pass without telecoms incident. Connectivity at the Olympic Park can at least be predicted and planned based on a greenfield implementation of the latest technologies and architectures. However, the UK as a whole must rely on previous investments to carry it through – and these have been less than optimal in the mobile space.”