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SK mobile network crashes, 5.6 million affected

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Mar 22,2014
Many SK Telecom mobile service subscribers were returned to the stone age when their smartphones went dead for nearly six hours Thursday.

Some complained that their smart devices didn’t work until yesterday morning.

SK Telecom estimated that services for 5.6 million users went kaput.

According to the company, all services, including voice calls, text messages and Internet connection, crashed at around 6:00 p.m. Thursday after a piece of equipment that verifies the locations of subscribers malfunctioned.

The equipment, called Home Location Registration (HLR), is the main database of permanent subscriber information for a mobile network.

The HLR was disrupted at a peak traffic time and could not distinguish SK Telecom users to transmit signals.

According to the company, it only took 24 minutes to repair the equipment.

But the blackout of services created a sudden rush of traffic as phone users tried to get back online, which overwhelmed the networks.

That overload knocked out services for many customers until 11:40 p.m. Thursday. But for SK Telecom subscribers in areas where the traffic wasn’t so heavy, services worked normally.

The crash of the network affected individuals and businesses that rely on telecommunication services, including taxis, whose mobile credit card readers use the network.

SK Telecom CEO Ha Sung-min yesterday held a press briefing to apologize to the public. He promised to compensate all 27 million of the company’s customers, with additional compensation for the 5.6 million customers who were blacked out.

“Due to the communication failure, SK Telecom customers had to experience inconveniences,” Ha said. “We will compensate directly affected customers and indirectly affected customers who could not connect to some SK users.

“In principle, customers must apply for compensation, but we will collectively reward our customers without applications. We are planning a compensation of rate reductions next month.”

According to its contracts, SK Telecom must compensate customers with a payment six times the basic monthly plan plus additional service charges should a communication failure last for more than three hours.

However, the mobile carrier said it would compensate all users 10 times the basic monthly plan plus additional service charges for one day.

Ha also promised the company will ensure that such an incident would not happen again.

“We will also operate a specialized customer service center to actively resolve customer complaints,” said Ha.

“We will also embark on strengthening the HLR equipment to provide better voice call quality and make an all-out effort in enhancing the safeguard device against system failure.”

The company said it looked into the possibility of hacking causing the crash but didn’t find any evidence.

SK Telecom’s stock fell 2.3 percent yesterday from the previous day.

Due to the crash, SK Telecom is expected to have to pay up to 50 billion won ($46.2 million) in compensation.

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]






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