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The network outage is a common issue on our cellphones and broadband services. They can be very frustrating when we are in the midst of urgent calls or online activity. While we can rage at an abrupt disconnection of a service, it is indeed an intrinsic aspect of communications. In this post, we will dissect some reasons why network outage occurs on our telecom and broadband internet services.
Just recently, Nepalese suffered a mobile network outage on NTC. This locked GSM mobile customers out of voice call for about 2 hours. Likewise, leading ISP WorldLink had its own disruption for a stretch. As a result, it incurred lash out on social media with enraged customers mocking their ‘usual disservice’.
NTC issued a statement with an apology later that day and pointed to equipment malfunctioning for the issue. Meanwhile, Worldlink blamed it on their main server causing the disconnection.
Getting out of communication can be the worst especially, while we are at lockdown and our work depends online. But, we cannot deny the inevitability of equipment failure or server issues that keep us out of advanced communication services. Today, we will be exploring some key factors which cause network disruption. Let us first discover why ISP networks stop working. But before we move to the causes, let us list some of the issues we face during a network outage.
When there is a network outage in either a mobile network or an internet service, common issues as below persist.
Local/Regional or whole network issue: Sometimes, the equipment, transmission link, or power supply can be damaged in your vicinity. This can lead to a network outage for your area only. There could even be a disruption of the equipment/transmission network for a city or region. Whereas, the worst of all is the whole network issue. When the issue inflicts the core or central system, the entire customers on its service fall short of service.
Severe weather, lengthy power outage, and damage to physical cable or equipment can cause regional or whole network blackouts. At times, International bandwidth failure can also result in a network outage. For an instance, If Nepal’s central broadband link breaks up with the provider country India, All Nepalese will be out of internet service. Likewise, damage to the undersea fiber cables leads to international broadband blackouts. If this occurs, the impact will span across countries or the whole region.
Power Outage: Telecom and ISP network equipment require a power supply for continuous delivery of service. When power cuts for a long time (beyond the capacity of battery backup), then that equipment stops working, leading to an outage. Continuous electricity supply is one of the challenges for telecom operators in Nepal and also for ISPs.
Transmission link failure: The telecom and ISP service are only operational when the nodes in the locality are connected to the central office or core system via a transmission link. These links could be mostly optical fiber or microwave radio systems. Chances are due to the physical works in the road or environment, the transmission link could be dysfunctional, interrupting the telecom, ISP service. Fiber cut, transmission equipment failure, Microwave repeater failure could be some of the reasons behind it.
The telcos and broadband service providers employ backup for both power, transmission link, and also equipment redundancy so that they could resume the services in times of an abrupt power failure. However, the redundancies are also subject to fail sometimes.
Upgradation/Maintenance Work: Sometimes the network is disrupted when ISPs and telcos undergo maintenance or up-gradation work. It involves pole relocating/shifting, repairing cables, installing or replacing new hardware. Generally, ISPs and telcos carry these works at night and also keep their customers informed. But sometimes, the effect of such upgrade activity could be felt in the normal hours too. Some of the errors are bound to happen and can only be known only after the implementation of the upgrade.
Equipment damage or failure: There are a huge electronic equipment involved in carrying the data from central telco office or data servers to your device. Such equipment are robust to withstand some problems. Whereas power surges, wear and tear, and even some unknown bugs might stop them from working. If the equipment are modular (most likely for a modern devices), they can simply replace a particular card or module to have a prompt restoration.
Natural Cause: Earthquakes, floods, landslides, and other occurrences impact every ground properties including cell towers, poles, and underground fiber cables. It is very likely that the mobile/internet network gets interrupted during such times. We witness network outage more in rural areas in monsoon. When torrential rain continues the power cuts. In the absence of electricity supply, battery backup works but after the backup, system nodes come to a halt and lead to network blackout.
When the Mega Earthquake struck Nepal in 2072, Baishakh, telcos services went offline for some hours due to the damage to its physical infrastructures coming in the way of the quake.
Recommended Read: Why Mobile network becomes problematic during disaster period >>
Besides physical damages, the equipment are subject to huge loads or congestion due to the instant requirement for calling and internet after the event like Earthquake or Major Political News. Such loads on the system could even put network in peril and result imminent network outage.
Having discussed all reasons for mobile, internet network outages, there is a slim chance of the system being accessed unauthorize or suffer from hacking. The intentional or innocent act of unauthorized personnel can also lead to outages which are the most difficult ones for restoration.
When you lose a telecom or ISP network, you should first check for unplugged cables, routers, or dysfunctional SIM cards and mobile network settings. At times, network outages could be due to pre-planned maintenance. If your network issue sustains, there are certain things you should be doing.
Call your Service Provider: If you are confirm that the cause is beyond your equipment, contact your ISP or telco and see if there is an issue on their end. In the case of some ISPs, you can raise a ticket online and ask them to mend your service.
Check out: How to improve Wifi internet speed at home?
Help Your Service Providers: When the network is offline, you can call your service provider and give them specific detail regarding the issue. You can give them small details to help them pinpoint the issue, such as your router’s indicator not blinking, data or voice not working, physical damages to poles, fiber breakage, etc. Informing them since when you had the issue can also assist your service provider to mobilize the concerned team to restore the service.
Stay Patient: Staying patient is one of the best things you can do during a network outage. If network restoration is beyond your hands, then most likely, the service providers are at work to resume the service at the earliest. Even better, you can stay in contact with your service provider and stay updated about the system maintenance.
While telcos can fix their network locally, fiber cables issue can be transcontinental. Undersea cables connect the world via a highly complex network. There have been cases when network outages had an impact on large geography.
In 2018, Mauritania was left offline for 48 hours after the African Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable was severed. Similarly, in 2008 a ship severed the undersea cable and 75 million people suffered internet blackout in India and Mid-East.
Globally influential platforms also face similar issues at times. Globally accessed sites like Google, Amazon suffer from occasional service disruption due to CDN/cache, or server equipment failure.
Just recently on June 8, the world’s prominent sites were down. Verge, Reddit, Quora, HBO, Paypal, Spotify, among many others suffered and some even went offline for over an hour because Fastly, a CDN provider went off due to its server issue. This put millions of internet users out of service for a moment.
The point is, no matter how sophisticated the systems look on the surface, they still remain fragile undersea. The global communication system is vulnerable to weather, natural disasters, and human causes, inadvertent or deliberate.
Losing communication is the worst-case scenario when we base our work or study online. Besides, it is a major source of entertainment and recreation for many these days. Understandably, network outage is an intolerable experience for us. But, however, it is just as equally painful to the engineers, CEOs, branch managers, and officials working in Operation and Maintenance.
We must appreciate the diligence and commitment of service providers and their management who try and resume the service at the least of time. Therefore, in times of network outages, we should patiently wait for the network restoration and cooperate with service providers. This also strengthens the trust between service providers and the customers. Having said that, we believe the operators learn from each of such event and put their efforts for not to have the same reasoning, apart from the nature and unforeseen circumstances.
We hope this post has helped you identify key elements behind occasional network issues that plague our communication. We also believe that you have a better impression of how global network of broadband service.
If you have any queries relating to a network outage on your mobile network and broadband internet, let us know in the comments below.