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O2 network goes down as people work from home

The O2 mobile network has suffered an outage as large numbers of people in Britain work from home, with rival networks suggesting issues impacting them are due to O2’s problems.

Britons are working from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the virus caused by coronavirus, with the outbreak now infecting 1,950 people in the country, 71 of whom have died.

The issues apparently resulted from a short-lived network congestion problem which did affect calls made over 3G for the three major networks – O2, EE and Vodafone.

O2 confirmed the network problems on its website
Image: O2 confirmed the network problems on its website

Telecommunications industry sources at rival companies told Sky News that their networks were working fine but would not be reachable from O2 numbers due to issues with that network.

O2 denies this.

In a statement on its website EE confirmed there were problems making calls for some customers, which it blamed on “an issue in another operator’s network”.

“Work is being done to resolve this as soon as possible. This is not related to the increase in home working, caused by Coronavirus,” EE’s statement continued.

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Sky News understands Vodafone chaired a NEAT (National Emergency Alert for Telecoms) conference call this morning to get technical teams from the operators talking to each other regarding the outage.

A spokesperson for O2 stated: “Today the industry experienced an issue that meant some calls between different networks were unable to connect.

“Specifically, O2, Vodafone and Three were unable to connect to EE and EE customers were unable to connect to O2, Vodafone and Three.

“At a time when the country needs connectivity most, it is important we work together rather than pointing fingers before facts have been determined,” they added, before confirming there would be another NEAT conference call at 2:30pm on Tuesday.

It comes as the government ramps up measures against the coronavirus epidemic following new predictions that the UK could otherwise have seen 250,000 deaths.

A new document published by the COVID-19 team at London’s Imperial College – which is advising the government on its coronavirus response – warns the current public health threat is the “most serious” from a respiratory virus since the Spanish Flu in 1918.

They advised the UK adopts a strategy of “epidemic suppression” – for a period of potentially 18 months or more – rather than “mitigation”.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a significant escalation of UK measures in response to coronavirus, including advising everyone in the country to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants and theatres and to only make essential journeys

File photo dated 20/1/2010 of a general view of the Reading branch of the Laura Ashley chain which has said it has filed for administration after rescue talks were thwarted by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Coronavirus hits retailer Laura Ashley

The increased traffic has caused a spike in complaints about a wide range of digital services.

Figures compiled by the website Down Detector show complaints about video conference tools Skype and Cisco Webex rising sharply this morning.

Complaints about online shopping services from supermarkets included Waitrose and Morrison’s also rose, as did complaints about popular online game Fortnite.

Online working tool Microsoft Teams suffered an outage on Monday morning as a result of an influx of new users.

Labour’s shadow digital minister, Chi Onwurah, a former electrical engineer who worked as head of telecoms technology for communications regulator Ofcom, has written to the government asking what measures it is taking to ensure that telecommunications networks are resilient.

“As usage levels and traffic patterns shift considerably,” Ms Onwurah writes, “it is critical that there is public and market confidence that the UK’s networks are robust for the period ahead.”

Additional reporting by Rowland Manthorpe, technology correspondent

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