A service provider outage, like the one witnessed in Canada last month, impacts millions, leaving people isolated without internet and telephone coverage in a highly connected world. The implications of a service provider outage are far-reaching, inflicting substantial financial costs and reputational damages.
The onus of providing a highly available and seamless network for the smooth functioning of the digital economy rests with telecom companies and ISPs. This notion forms the backdrop for Canadian Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne's efforts to pilot the country's telecom service industry to enter a formal agreement. This agreement seeks to enhance network reliability to address service provider outages.
The Rogers service provider outage
A widespread service provider outage shut down Rogers Communications Inc.'s various wireless & internet services across the country last month. The outage prodded Champagne to ask all telecom service providers in the country to enter into a formal agreement to provide reliable network service to the end-users.
During a conference call, Champagne urged all the chief executive officers (CEOs) of primary telecom companies to enforce a framework that would direct the wireless carriers to aid each other in case network outages occur. This agreement also seeks to enable & deliver consumers and end users with emergency roaming on their networks and render a communications protocol in case of an outage.
During the meeting Rogers' Tony Staffieri attended, Champagne said, "I wanted to make sure that in no uncertain terms they understand how Canadians found the situation unacceptable & they need to take immediate initial steps to improve the resiliency of our network in Canada."
However, according to top telecom industry sources, "Such a framework would not have prevented or resolved the massive network service provider outage." According to these sources, Rogers's customers across the country experienced an outage without home phone service and internet because of a disruption caused due to a malfunction in Rogers's core network.
According to CBC, Champagne said the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) would investigate the outage incident. Champagne added that he would like to know what plans the telecom companies will make (within the next 60 days) to mitigate such outages.
The impacts of an outage
Since almost everything is a part of the broader digital ecosystem, various industries like banking, navigation, or emergency services are highly dependent on the internet and telephone services for efficiency. However, an outage can disrupt the usual way of functioning. Here are some scenarios to consider:
During an outage, people cannot send or receive money electronically.
People may not be able to log into their accounts, especially when an account leverages multi-factor authentication.
An outage can disrupt online businesses and retail shops, inflicting losses of millions.
Emergency services like online booking of hospitals and clinic services will not be able to operate.
The disruption in the internet and telephony services can lock out employees’ from their accounts, especially when using 2FA (SMS-based tokens). With the outage disrupting network coverage, SMS delivery also will be impacted, resulting in organizations losing precious work hours.
Most outages are attributed to human errors, malfunctioning of the core network or its infrastructure, configuration management failure, firmware or software error, or security breaches in the system. To effectively mitigate the service provider outage, telecom companies need to co-operate on network reliability and institute a backup emergency service system.
A service provider outage can have far-reaching consequences. As most industries depend on the continued availability of the internet and telephone services to offer cutting-edge services, service providers must take a more proactive approach to solve issues.