Thursday, August 7, 2008

The problems keep on coming

FLAWED software patches from Nokia Siemens Networks have crippled Optus's 3G mobile network in Brisbane, the telco said.

Since 6am yesterday, Optus subscribers in Brisbane suffered from intermittent transmission of data and voice services as Australia’s number two telco battled to reconfigure a recent upgrade to its new 3G software platform.

The upgrade, which has been applied to all Optus 3G mobile switches nationwide, was supposed to provide efficiency gains in speed and capacity load. Instead, it triggered three separate network failures which combined to cause chaos for Optus customers in Queensland, NSW, the ACT and Victoria last week.

As a result subscribers were left without mobile phone services for about 10 hours.

While the upgrade was successfully rolled back in Melbourne and Sydney, the problem again reared its ugly head in Brisbane.

"We had a new patch put in place in the affected areas by midday last Friday but we now have a re-emergence of a similar problem in the Brisbane area," Optus spokesperson Maha Krishnapillai said.

The network in Brisbane was online at 7am but went offline an hour later. At 4pm systems went down again.

"We're not sure how long it will take to fix this problem again but we hope soon," Mr Krishnapillai said.

He said Optus could offer no guarantees that the problem would not recur as it was related to a Nokia Siemens software fault.

"Nokia's latest version of the software was in effect 'contaminated'. We had a bug in the software so we have had to roll it back.

"The issue for us is that we have put the upgrade in other areas and have had no problems whatsoever - so it’s a bit of a lottery."

Engineers from Optus and Nokia Siemens were both responsible for the patch installation.

He said Optus was unsure why the patch had worked in some areas but not others.

"There was extensive testing on both our parts and we were also assured by Nokia Siemens that the software would work in different (network) environments," he said. "But when we went live it was a different story."

"Now we’re just hoping the patch will hold. We can’t say for sure whether or not we will have more issues over the next week in Brisbane," he said.

Nokia Siemens declined to directly address Mr Krishnapillai's claims, saying it valued its close relationship with Optus.

"We're proud of both companies' shared goal of providing a superior mobile service in Australia. Experts from both companies are working in partnership to resolve any remaining network issues, as is always the case when any outage occurs," Nokia Siemens spokesman Ben Roome said.

In the meantime Optus has requested network engineers from Nokia Siemens' Finland headquarters to rectify the problem on-site.

"We have told Nokia to fly out some engineers because we certainly won't be flying them here," Mr Krishnapillai said.

Mr Krishnapillai suggested Optus would be reviewing the service level guarantees it had in place with Nokia Siemens.

"We do have some service level guarantees with them and we will clearly be looking at whether in fact the software they have given us is up to scratch," he said.

Mr Krishnapillai ruled out Optus pursuing legal action against Nokia Siemens or seeking compensation.

"We are not looking to sue them on this, what we are doing is looking to work with them to fix it.

“As I’m sure Nokia would tell you, we are their most important customer in Australia and a very important customer throughout the SingTel group ... they will clearly want to make sure they work with us to fix this problem," he said.,25197,24141034-15306,00.html

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