Three fined £1.9m by Ofcom for emergency call failure


Ofcom claimed a weakness in Three’s network could have had a potentially serious impact on public health and safety

Three has been fined nearly £1.9 million by Ofcom after it failed to ensure its customers could contact emergency services at all times.

An investigation into the Three’s network was started after the operator had notified Ofcom of temporary service loss in Kent, Hampshire and parts of London on October 6. Ofcom found emergency calls in the affected areas had to pass through a specific data centre, meaning emergency calls in the area were vulnerable to a single point of failure.

The regulator added the calls should have been diverted to various back-up routes in the case of an outage. However, Ofcom claimed these routes were directed through to the data centre. Three has added an additional back-up route to address the issue.

Ofcom found Three had not acted deliberately or recklessly, but the weakness had breached its rules and could have had a serious impact on public health and safety.

Ofcom enforcement and investigations director Gaucho Rasmussen said: “Telephone access to the emergency services is extremely important, because failures can have serious consequences for people’s safety and wellbeing.”

“Today’s fine serves as a clear warning to the wider telecoms industry. Providers must take all necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services.”

A Three spokesperson added: “Providing our customers with uninterrupted access to emergency services is a requirement we take extremely seriously. Three therefore acknowledges Ofcom’s decision today to fine Three for a single point of vulnerability on Three’s network. However, this vulnerability has not had any impact on our customers and only relates to a potential point of failure in Three’s network.

“Ofcom identified this vulnerability when investigating a separate, unprecedented and unforeseeable October 2016 fibre break outage on Three’s network. This resulted in a temporary loss of emergency call services affecting some customers. Three took immediate action and the issue was quickly resolved.

“Ofcom recognises that the circumstances surrounding the October 2016 fibre break outage were exceptional and outside of Three’s control.  As a result, the incident itself was not a breach of Ofcom’s rules.

“Ofcom has also recognised today that Three has cooperated fully during its investigation and has taken steps to further strengthen the resilience of Three’s network.”