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Three UK Suffers Third Major Mobile Outage in Four Days UPDATE3

Monday, Feb 12th, 2024 (1:01 pm) - Score 11,920
three_uk_sim_card

Mobile operator Three UK has today suffered a third major network outage in the space of four days, which began at around 10:30am today and seems to have been largely resolved by 12:30pm. The latest outage attracted many more complaints than the previous event and also impacted customer services (probably due to being swamped by calls).

Just to recap. The first network outage struck after 3pm on Friday (9th Feb) and lasted for several hours, while a second similar event occurred on Saturday (10th) around midday and appeared to last a bit longer, although Sunday was largely quiet (here). So far, Three UK has not provided any explanation as to the root cause of these events, which have had a sporadic impact upon customers (some saw no problems, while others did).

NOTE: Outages like this will also be impacting Three UK’s Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) partners, such as Smarty and iD Mobile etc.

A spokesperson for Three UK said (X): “Some customers may be experiencing issues with our network this morning. Our engineers are working hard to fix it. This issue is also impacting customer service, so please check back here for the latest updates. We’re very sorry for the issues with service over the past few days and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Just to be clear, we can’t recall a time when a mobile operator has suffered this many network outages – of significant scale – and over such a short period of time. Based on the feedback, we think the operator might be having trouble with its authentication servers, but it’s hard to know if they’re the cause or merely a symptom of another issue.

UPDATE 2:55pm

We’ve had a new update from Three: “Following an issue with our network that started earlier, services are now recovering. We know a number of our customers are still waiting on their service to be restored, and our engineers are working to fully fix it. Our customer services are still impacted and unavailable, so please check back here for the latest updates. We are very sorry for the issues with service over the past few days and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

UPDATE 4:40pm

Credits to one of our readers, Sam, for spotting how Gamma has a service status update that finally provides some useful information (here). The update appears to indicate that today’s outage was caused by an “issue with power supply to key infrastructure at a data centre site“. The mobile operator has since successfully restored a power supply to the data centre.

We do not know if a similar issue was to blame for the previous outages or why backup power was not available.

UPDATE 13th Feb 2024 @ 8:40am

Despite the core problem being resolved yesterday, Three UK has this morning issued the following update, which notes that they’re still experiencing some issues.

A spokesperson for Three said: “Following an issue with our network that started yesterday, the vast majority of services have been restored. However, a small number of customers may be still experiencing an issue with voice calls. Our customer service teams are open but are likely to be very busy. Unless your query is urgent, we’d advise against contacting us as wait times are likely to be very long. We understand how frustrating the last few days have been and are very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused to our customers.”

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Mark-Jackson
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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Comments
57 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    Got to be honest with both my wife and I on 3 this lack of service is seriously making me rethink. Its tough as only ee and 3 are reliable in our house so little other option but to pay more for ee (at least for one of us).

    1. Avatar photo Mr Andrew Unwin says:

      Look at Lyca Mobile, they use the EE network but are considerably cheaper.

    2. Avatar photo James says:

      Avoid Lyca. Try 1pmobile.

    3. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      another +1 for 1p. Even if you omit Lyca’s recent data loss incident, 1p seem to use EE’s core network, so you don’t have to deal with the weirdness that might result. (your phone won’t think it’s roaming, for example!)

      support seems better too. never had to contact them, but one weekend my credit disappeared. Before I got around to questioning it they’d already emailed me to apologise and explain what happened.

    4. Avatar photo Phil says:

      1p mobile wins hand down!

    5. Avatar photo elBison says:

      Lyca is lacking WiFi/VoLTE calling. They’re fine for data, but not for calls. And don’t believe what their website says, no VoLTE/VoWiFi on iPhone 15 pro or Samsung s23 ultra.

    6. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      If you want really cheap, RWGmobile are also on the EE network.

    7. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      Thanks all – I shall take a look. Don’t need a particular generous allowance as have home wifi most of the time so 4gb for £7.50 is almost as cheap as 10Gb of unreliable 3… Still cheaper than EE direct though.

  2. Avatar photo Adrian says:

    Looks like Gamma has been impacted this time and they are indicating it is a power supply issue: https://www.gamma.co.uk/support/service-status/

  3. Avatar photo David says:

    What shocking state is Three’s infrastructure in to be suffering this many nationwide outages. Granted the other networks also have localised capacity problems in certain populated areas but hardly ever suffer a full national outage. I’m with EE and the service has been rock solid, perhaps only 1-2 full outages in 4 years.

    1. Avatar photo A Stevens says:

      Yeah, we were with BT (i.e. EE) for a few years and it proved very reliable. But in the end, I couldn’t ignore the 50-70% cost saving in moving to Smarty. So far, no regrets, despite the weekend’s outages.

  4. Avatar photo A Stevens says:

    We recently moved to Smarty, so this was disappointing. But yes, in central Birmingham around Saturday lunchtime, my 5G icon disappeared and all data service stopped for 1-2 hours. I still had a full 100% cell signal throughout, but no data. I restarted the phone and it came back a while later…

    Other than that admittedly major meltdown, it’s all been good so far, and it’s very hard to argue with the price. Just £7/month for far more data that I actually need.

  5. Avatar photo Kushan says:

    I’m normally pretty understanding when it comes to outages – they happen, it’s to be expected. But this many outages over the last couple of days is completely unacceptable.

  6. Avatar photo JP says:

    I can’t say my Business sims have een affected by these outages that I know of, but I do know many around me have had issues.

    I only use the Three sims for data so might have been a different question with calls and texts.

    I’ve had more issues with Lyca via EE the last few days but they I know there going through changes to enable VoLTE and I think thats whats been causing issues.

    I’ve had a few calling issues with Lebara via Vodafeon in recent weeks too, but again 3G switch off and making changes to systems may be reasoning behind this.

  7. Avatar photo Mark says:

    Perhaps they should merge with a more reliable network like Vodafone or something?

    1. Avatar photo Ian says:

      The number of people who will defend garbage networks like Three just because they can save a few pence a month on SIM boggles the mind. Its cheap for a reason.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Vodafone was also down today for some people…

    3. Avatar photo X says:

      Vodafone more reliable lol

  8. Avatar photo chris says:

    this must be related to pulling out the Huawei kit.

    its never easy replacing one solution for another.

    1. Avatar photo Jim says:

      If they just came out and said that it would be much easier to understand.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      not sure how. Google suggests that Three doesn’t use a Huawei core network – theirs is Nokia – so what kind of change in the Huawei world would end up with such a massive outage?

      OTOH, BT actually did need to do a core swap and it seems to have largely gone without a hitch.

    3. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      I thought Three didn’t use Huawei kit. I seem to remember they were the only one not to be affected by that.

  9. Avatar photo James says:

    I’m not involved with Three but as an infrastructure engineer I think what a lot of people don’t understand is when you have an issue with a crucial part of your infrastructure that sometimes the solution is not straight forward.

    It might be a firmware/OS bug that needs patching which could take a while. If a third party vendor is responsible then may be they need to perform lab tests on hardware or are just dragging their feet.

    It also may not be possible to simply ditch it and swap it out for a comparable solution either due to compatibility with other parts of the infrastructure.

    Also if they’re only able to use one vendor then you have to remember although they might have redundancy, if it’s a software issue causing unexpected problems then any redundancy might experience the same problem.

  10. Avatar photo Rob says:

    Tempting fate I know, but I’m on the south coast between Southampton and Portsmouth and haven’t been impacted by these issues and I’ve been WFH for both of them.

  11. Avatar photo Ixel says:

    Interestingly it’s not just Three. Vodafone here is giving me a ‘network busy’ message on two different phones when trying to make a call to various different numbers. I’m intermittently able to receive phone calls on either device but I have been unable to make a phone call from either device for the last hour or so.

    1. Avatar photo Munehaus says:

      We’re seeing the same thing with Vodafone also failing to conmect calls. Moght be overload from Three users switching phones, though that seems unlikely.

  12. Avatar photo Ivor says:

    I kind of wish telcos did have to provide more detail as to why they had an outage. Don’t need to reveal anything sensitive, but it would be nice to get something at all

    eg. when we lost water pressure for the second time last year, I got an email from the water company explaining what the issue was, why the repair for the first loss of pressure had failed, and what they would do differently to try to stop it happening for a third time

    1. Avatar photo arundel says:

      It doesn’t help in terms of making anything public, but Ofcom have outage thresholds over which the telcos have to go to them and have a meeting without biscuits while they explain what went wrong. So someone somewhere will be asking some awkward questions at least.

  13. Avatar photo jammie1408 says:

    EE speeds have droppedm dramatically today as well. Nort sure if has any connection with the three issues with customer migration over networks.

    1. Avatar photo JP says:

      Noticed this also on my 4G connection at home, its become slow, unstabled and intermittent despite great service in days running up to issues starting at Three?

  14. Avatar photo Sam B says:

    Gamma (an MVNO using Three) post good Network Status updates. Much better than the usual “A limited number of customers are experiencing issues…” that I’m sick to death of seeing.

    https: // www . gamma . co . uk/support/service-status/

    In this instance it seems to be a power issue at a Data Centre.

    It should be a legal requirement for companies to state in numerical terms how many users they think are impacted and what the issue actually is, alongside an RCA after the event.

  15. Avatar photo Brian says:

    It would be very helpful if networks were more honest about what went wrong. It also shows the risk of trying to put everything in one basket as the failures coincided with FTTP being down, only coming back on this afternoon after being down for over 27 days.

  16. Avatar photo Cliff H says:

    With 3 for phone and home broadband. Not noticed any disruption. Getting 850mbs on home 5G for £11. What’s not to like

  17. Avatar photo Paul Cook says:

    Don’t bother me if a fault stops service for a while, nothing is perfect and even i don’t work sometimes

    1. Avatar photo Jim says:

      We don’t all have low standards

    2. Avatar photo Robert says:

      Thankfully, the rest of us don’t equate the operation of critical network infrastructure with that of an sometimes-sentient meat.

    3. Avatar photo X says:

      @ Jim those with high standards can go on a ‘high standards’ network… oops, thats not possible, we live in the UK.

  18. Avatar photo DaveP says:

    Smarty user (3) been using it all day, didn’t even notice – Sth Croydon CR2

  19. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

    I have mobile internet access now and SMS works but phone calls are still not working even after restarting my phone.

  20. Avatar photo Paul c says:

    I use three for my house running on 5g, up until now its been better than my old fttc supply i had, today tethered off my phone whilst working, but overall very pleased with three.

  21. Avatar photo Nick says:

    They offered me £10 credit to my account for 48 hours of total loss of service. Had to use Payphones to make a few calls. Thankfully we still have them in the UK. Ordered a Sky Mobile sim and arrived today and I will fight to get out of the contract without penalty. They reckon I would need to pay £406 but its only a sim only deal with less than 14 months left. This amount is simply plucked from thin air.

    1. Avatar photo Phil says:

      I was offered one month free thanks to Smarty

  22. Avatar photo Paul Barrett says:

    The sooner 3 are permitted to be taken over by Vodafone the better.

    The two combined networks will achieve far better coverage than as two separate networks.

    As it stands for ne the 3 network is 75kbps!!!!

    I was therefore forced to take out an expensive EE mobile contract.

    But the EE network has Bern excellent.

    Never less than 50mbps and sometimes up to 200mbps.

    Yes it is more expensive and I will be converting to an EE SIM only deal.

    I could pay £20 for an unlimited 3 SIM only deal but it would be pointless as it won’t work.

    So I am forced to pay about £13 pm mire for an EE unlimited SIM

    But at least it works

    I have a dual Sim in a mobile which indicates the EE signal at 100%.

    The 3 SIM is one bar of signal.

    A combined 3 and Vodafone network should be equal to the other networks.

    Only the Gkvt is preventing the tie up.

    1. Avatar photo Munehaus says:

      I think part of the problem is the delay and uncertainty. If the merger had just been blocked, Three would have been forced to invest in their network or sell it to someone else.

      As it is, Three don’t seem to care any more about their core or mobile customers. The only customer they seem to care about is Vodafone and all they want are the masts. Why invest in a resilient central network core if it adds nothing of value to the sale.

  23. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    A lot of people I know are now dropping their landlines either when going to FTTP or going to SOGEA etc. The mobile networks need to improve reliability as for a lot of people it’s their only means of communication.

    1. Avatar photo Munehaus says:

      It’s worse than that. Emergency alarms for vulnerable people are being forced to switch to the mobile networks. These are not 999 calls that will use any network available, but SMS or data based systems and even when roaming is available, if the core network that needs to receive those texts is down, the alarms won’t get through!

  24. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

    Normal phone calls are still ‘Can’t connect’ this morning. WiFi calling and VoLTE works though.

  25. Avatar photo Andrew says:

    I guess Life needs a big network, not a reliable one

  26. Avatar photo Andrew says:

    @elBison

    “Lyca is lacking WiFi/VoLTE calling”

    Nope, they have had both of those for the last month

    1. Avatar photo JP says:

      Not on all devices, my iphone still not working on VoLTE, actually it struggles to receive calls currently because of half arsed switchover process.

  27. Avatar photo nick Roberts says:

    Somebody not using underhand publicity tactics to “Aid” the merger negotiations . . . . disgraceful . . .. HMG probably will not be keen either . .of the proposed merger or tactics . . another difficult decision, the outcome of wehich they’ll be criticised for, come what may, and the short-term memory of which can be revived by “Interested parties” at election time.

    My Three’s lovely jubbly, 3 bars of 4G indoors, phone and data on-the-line.

  28. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Somebody’s desperate to do it the EE (Lambeth) way . . . kerching !!

  29. Avatar photo Frank Toat says:

    Three UK telling lies. They’ve been hacked again – last time they were hacked – resulted in 9 million customers personal info being made available to all and sundry. Rotten service, rotten infrastructure and rotten security of customers sensitive details. Go to any network bar this one.

  30. Avatar photo Suffolk says:

    I`ve persuaded many family members in the rural areas to ditch Copper Broadband and go with Mobile Broadband with Smarty.
    My brother-inlaw at his farm was getting 2/3Mbs on copper with PN, who were charging him the full rate ?
    Mercifully here in Suffolk and North East Essex, I haven`t heard a word during this spell of outages

  31. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Lyca is the worst for calls and no Volte despite website saying its working.

    Three is still a great overall network as long as you have a back up cheap SIM.

    I use Vodafone for calls and data backup and three as core data. That’s an excellent solution and saves me a lot as I use Lebara for Vodafone.

    I think Lyca use some of their own systems which may not end up like a true EE experience.

    Three are much better now with their band B28/n28 for indoor reach. I have more issues with Vodafone when indoors!

Comments are closed

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