It’s not only SK’s problemMillions of Koreans were disconnected when SK Telecom’s network, which provides service for half of the country’s mobile phone users, broke down for nearly six hours starting Thursday evening. Phone lines were dead, and Internet data and navigation services were unavailable. Phone payments on public transportation were also disrupted.
SK Telecom sited that a technical glitch had occurred at its main database, Home Local Registration. Phone connections are not possible if the home registration does not function because the network cannot identify if the caller is a subscriber. The equipment was fixed in 24 minutes. But because of the overload from a sudden rush of traffic, telecommunications lines were unstable and down for nearly six hours. SK Telecom’s website also broke down because of the massive number of users clicking to complain. SK Telecom promised to compensate its subscribers 10 times the phone charges as well as for damages sustained by clients driving taxis and operating delivery services, who rely primarily on mobile phones for their businesses.
As the country’s main mobile services carrier, it should take responsibility for the damages it caused and take actions to prevent such problems from happening again. The company must take more aggressive actions to satisfy its customers.
But the disruption in mobile services should not end with reimbursement and corrective actions. Mobile communications and smart devices have become indispensable to Korean people. A great part of social and economic activities are based on mobile services. National administrative operations, disaster control and security systems rely on the wireless communication infrastructure. Korean society practically runs on mobile services. A large-scale disruption and disconnection for a lengthy period could be catastrophic. Damage control should not be left entirely up to the operators.
The government, however, kept mostly to the sidelines, underscoring its lack of awareness of the potential gravity of such incidents. The government should not wait until network malfunctions recur to take action. The government and mobile carriers should come up with joint contingency plans to stave off disasters due to network problems. They must not only be attentive to maintenance but also map out joint emergency plans.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 22, Page 30