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EE UK Still Failing to Learn the Lessons of a Good Service Status Page

Thursday, Mar 20th, 2014 (3:00 pm) - Score 2,103

News Flash – Consumers like to be fully informed when a service they pay for isn’t working properly. Sadly this message is clearly one that some telecoms and Internet providers seem to have trouble grasping, as demonstrated by the recent outage of EE’s mobile network across a significant chunk of the United Kingdom.

Yesterday mobile operator EE, which like other mobile providers appears to have trouble keeping consumers informed about service outages and other network problems, suffered a significant fault that resulted in a mix of 3G / 4G connectivity (voice, data and text) and performance problems across large parts of the country.

According to DownDetector, which is a website that tracks mentions of network outages on social media and via other sources, most of the problems appear to have begun sometime between 6pm and 7pm yesterday evening.

The vast majority of reports were from London but other major cities across the United Kingdom also showed problems. It’s not surprising to see a lot of reports from major population centres but the problem wasn’t confided to cities.

ee network outage 19th march 2014

On this occasion EE, which lacks a proper service status page, did at least manage to recognise the problem and posted the following notice on their Community Forum at 7:51pm: “We have an issue with the EE network at the moment which may be causing some problems. We’re really sorry to anyone this is affecting, and we’re working hard to resolve it as fast as we can.”

Unfortunately no further updates came until 9:45am this morning (here) when EE said that “normal service is restored for most of you” (read: some people are currently still having problems) and explained that the outage was caused by an unspecified “technical issue“, before adding that “the vast majority of our customers were not affected“. Not very informative. Since then we’ve also had the following statement, which claims to explain what happened but doesn’t.

Network issues update – 12:10pm (20th March 2014)

Last night a small proportion of our customers experienced problems with our network.

We know that this is extremely frustrating, and first and foremost we’d like to apologise to anyone who was affected.

Our engineers resolved the issue, and normal service was restored for all affected customers overnight.

Some phones may need to be switched off and on again to ensure service is fully restored.

What happened?

Some customers were unable to use the network from about 7pm last night. Our network engineers identified the cause of the issue quickly and began resolving the issue by 8.30pm. Although our network was working, some devices were not able to get a signal due to a technical issue.

We’re really sorry for the inconvenience caused and our focus is on ensuring that we continue to provide the best and most reliable network for the UK.

It’s good to see that EE have at least improved their response time as we can remember their sibling, Orange UK in particular, taking several hours before acknowledging a major network fault and doing so on more than one occasion. Never the less the long wait and lack of informative updates during the outage was sadly somewhat less worthy of praise.

Similarly the fact that consumers had to hunt around on EE’s community forum in order to find an update is always less desirable than offering a centralised service status page. Fixed line ISPs, albeit admittedly not all of them, have become much better at this over the past few years and many will now give you some rough information about the cause of an outage (flooding, radius fault, cable damage etc.) and some (e.g. AAISP, Eclipse Internet) often post regular updates.

Sadly the same cannot be said for mobile operators where “technical issue” seems to be the best or indeed only response during any outage, which is rather poor for a provider like EE that was just recently rated the most reliable by a RootMetrics study (though RootMetrics didn’t conduct a proper like-for-like comparison). But this isn’t just an EE specific issue.

In general mobile operators need to get better at keeping consumers informed about the health of their networks. A good service status page should be quick to reflect network outages and their rough area(s) of impact with regular updates, along with any relevant times / dates and or an ETA for the fix (where possible). Later on a proper reason for the outage should also be expressed (not vague “technical issues”); then perhaps customers wouldn’t be forced to setup their own service status pages (example).

In the meantime we’ll join others in speculating over what might have caused the problem. So far this seems to range from reports that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 crashed into their data centre to claims that Borris Johnson accidentally cut one of EE’s data links while riding to work on his bike. In one theory Justin Bieber fans are believed to have crashed the network.. for no apparent reason, just because.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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