Pai Calls June T-Mobile Outage “Failure”

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The FCC released a staff report Thursday detailing the causes and impact of a nationwide 12-hour T-Mobile outage that occurred in June. The document also contains actions that can help prevent similar outages in the future.

Agency Chairman Ajit Pai called the outage “a failure,” and that a staff investigation showed the telecom didn’t follow several established network reliability best practices that could have either prevented the outage or mitigated its impact. “All telecommunications providers must ensure they are adhering to relevant industry best practices, and I encourage network reliability standards bodies to apply their expertise to the issues identified in this report for further study,” said Pai.

The June 15 T-Mobile outage on its wireless networks disrupted calling and texting services nationwide, including 911 service, as well as access to data service in some areas, according to the Commission. The report notes the agency’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau estimates at least 41 percent of all calls on T-Mobile’s network failed during the outage, including at least 23,621 failed calls to 911. 

The report explains that equipment failure caused the outage, which was exacerbated by a network routing misconfiguration. According to the agency, the outage was magnified by a software flaw in T-Mobile’s network that had been latent for months and interfered with customers’ ability to initiate or receive voice calls during the outage. 

In its report, the bureau identifies the network reliability best practices that could have prevented the outage or mitigated its effects, including providers periodically auditing the diversity of their networks. The bureau also recommends several network reliability issues for further examination by standards bodies.

Based on its analysis of this and other recent outages, the Commission plans to release a notice reminding companies of industry-accepted best practices, including those recommended by the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council, and their importance. The agency will also contact major transport providers to discuss their network practices and offer assistance to smaller providers to help ensure communications networks remain “robust, reliable, and resilient.” 

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