Mobile provider Three has been handed a £1.89 million fine after customers were left without a fail-safe service for 999 emergency calls.
The failure could have put lives at risk, the regulator Ofcom said.
Ofcom rules say that UK mobile operators must have a reliable service for emergency calls – and users must be able to get through to 999 operators.
This is still the case even if mobile networks are down, or experiencing overload problems.
There should be multiple measures in place to make sure 999 calls can be diverted around faulty parts of a network so that, even if normal calls cannot connect, emergency calls will still work normally.
Ofcom has stated that ensuring everyone can contact emergency services at all times “is of utmost importance to public health and safety”.
Three 999 fine for ‘severe’ issues
On 6 October 2016, Three’s network in Kent, Hampshire and parts of London experienced severe technical problems.
A follow-up investigation by Ofcom discovered that Three’s network was not properly set up to handle emergency calls during this service interruption.
Three failed to provide effective back-up routes for 999 calls, as all network traffic was being directed through the same point of failure.
Three has since upgraded their infrastructure to ensure that all emergency calls have multiple back-up routes that aren’t vulnerable to a single fault in the network.
Ofcom’s fine of £1,890,000 “serves as a clear warning to the wider telecoms industry,” said Ofcom’s Enforcement and Investigations Director, Gaucho Rasmussen.
“Providers must take all necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services,” he added.
This hefty fine was reduced by 30% because of Three’s co-operation during Ofcom’s investigation and Ofcom have acknowledged Three’s improved measures for connecting emergency calls.