Editorial: Spotlight on KDDI Network Outages to Strengthen Japan’s Telecom Infrastructure

Japanese telecommunications giant KDDI Corp., operator of the ‘au’ mobile phone network, bears heavy responsibility for its recent massive service outage, causing much of the telecommunications infrastructure on which we depend to come to a halt. all in our daily life. . The origin of the failure must be carefully studied to prevent it from happening again.

The outage was apparently caused by a malfunction in equipment that converts callers’ voices into digital cascade information in other systems, affecting calls and data communications on up to 39.15 million phones. The effects continued until the third day after the initial outage. It was an exceptional situation.

The impact on daily life and business activities has been enormous. Package delivery status updates and weather data collection were interrupted and some ATMs could not be used. This highlighted the risks of a society where a wide range of things and services are connected via the Internet.

Telecommunications are essential during natural disasters such as torrential rains, typhoons and earthquakes. They are also at the heart of next-generation technologies, including autonomous vehicles. It goes without saying that if they are paralyzed, the consequences could be fatal, so all possible precautions should be taken.

Mobile phone giant NTT Docomo Inc. experienced its own network outage in October 2021. The company failed to take thorough action if there were any problems while building communications facilities, and the outage caused lasted 29 hours.

The Ministry of Communications had urged telecommunications companies to strengthen measures against this kind of problem. But the lessons learned were not fully exploited and KDDI did not sufficiently consider the possibility that a malfunction of only part of its equipment could lead to a total failure of communications. There’s no denying that the chaos has been compounded by the company’s overly optimistic assumptions.

It is essential to check whether backup systems and employee education and training were sufficient to prepare for an outage.

The way KDDI treated its customers during the crisis was also problematic. At first, the company only posted a brief notice of the network outage on its website, and it released little valuable information about the cause or when the issue could be resolved until a press conference the next day.

The enormous scale of the outage meant there were limits to what KDDI stores and call centers could do. The company must devise better methods of disseminating information and communicating.

The Department of Communications considers it a “serious accident” under the Telecommunications Business Act and will issue administrative guidance. As the number of landlines and payphones declines, policies to improve the quality and stability of mobile communications are needed.

Machines are bound to break down. The risks of cyberattacks and other contingencies are also increasing. Efforts must be strengthened to prevent communication crises and minimize the impact when they occur.

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