British Telecom fiasco continued : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

BT crash baffles engineers

By Hester Lacey

27 February 2000

The great British Telecom fiasco continued through Saturday night with the company unable to explain why computer failure silenced millions of calls on Friday  and unable to promise that the breakdown would not re-occur.

The failure turned out to be far more widespread than at first thought. The NHS helpline, the AA, the RAC, British Gas, the pipeline operator Transco, National Rail Inquiries, Virgin, the RSPCA, the Samaritans, as well as banks and some internet service providers, were all affected. Worried clients of BT are now demanding immediate talks with the phone company.

Engineers worked through the night to restore services but by yesterday BT had not got to the root of the problem, which affected two of the three computers that handle the reduced rate calls and free-phone numbers.

Telephone numbers were either blocked or appeared to be engaged, the fault also affecting 0800, 0845 and 0345 numbers. Many helplines and business information lines were wiped out.

The most likely explanation, the company said, was a malfunction in the system.

The problems have come just weeks before millions of phone numbers are altered in April, when BT introduces new area codes, local numbers in six places, and changes to mobile and premium rate numbers.

Transco, the gas pipeline company, found customers unable to quickly contact itsemergency line for reporting leaks. The RAC, whose system in the south of England was particularly badly hit, thought that about 50 per cent of callers to its service were unable to get through. "It was frustrating that BT couldn't put [out] a message explaining the situation and asking our members to keep trying to get through," said a spokesman. "There was nothing we could do to help."

Many callers to the AA, requesting help on the road, struggled to get through on the phone, said a spokesman. "The AA has spent millions on the technology that allows us to answer calls in seconds and get out to people in half an hour. It was annoying that we couldn't do the job we invested for, simply because the phone wasn't working properly."

British Gas estimates it lost about 35,000 calls. And yesterday the RSPCA's main switchboard was still not operating.

Yesterday, BT said: "We will be keeping a very close eye on things and working to establish the cause. We send apologies to all our customers and will be speaking to them all."

see also:

-- Martin Thompson (, February 26, 2000


(Bingo. British Telecom is blaming the network failure on router problems)

BT UK network suffers serious failure

By Richard Baum LONDON, February 25 (Reuters) - The battered reputation of British Telecommunications Plc took a further beating on Friday when a serious network failure blocked thousands of calls to banks, utilities and breakdown services.

Stranded motorists and people trying to report gas leaks found calls to customer service centres engaged or unobtainable because of a problem routing freephone and local-rate numbers.

BT said it did not know the cause of the problem, which began in the morning and continued into early evening.

It affected non-geographic numbers, which begin with codes such as 0800 and 0345 and are used by companies to allow customers nationwide to contact them for free or at local rate tariffs. Gateway systems which redirect the numbers failed.

"This is actually a serious problem and one we haven't experienced on this scale before," a BT spokeswoman said.

BG Group Plc , owner of the country's Transco gas pipeline system, said all its freephone numbers were affected from 1145 GMT, forcing some callers to phone the emergency services to report gas leaks.

The Automobile Association said motorists calling its breakdown line had to call repeatedly to get through, and it expected some people would have given up.

National Westminster Bank Plc said many of the 100,000 customer calls it receives in a day failed to connect and it urged account holders to phone alternative numbers.

The failure was another blow to BT, whose shares have tumbled this year partly on dismay over the loss of UK residential customers to competitors.

It comes at a time when BT is seeking to boost its call centre business, which it trumpeted only the previous day as a 226 million pound ($360.3 million) industry in the UK. It said it had a 27 percent share of the market.

A spokesman for BG distribution subsidiary Transco did not rule out taking its call centre business elsewhere. "We are constantly reviewing our arrangements," he said. "Anything that threatens customers' safety is a matter of concern for us.

BT said it did not know when it would fix the problem.

"We have to say exchanges and networks are basically computers and sadly they do crash sometimes," the spokeswoman said.

Despite the failure, BT shares continued their recent recovery with a 5.1 percent rise to 11.52 pounds.

15:49 02-25-00

Source: Posted on America Online News, no url available

-- Lee Maloney (, February 27, 2000.

Breaking News 2/28 7:40 CST

BT customers want talks on network failure

LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Corporate customers of British Telecommunications Plc. said on Monday they were seeking urgent meetings with the company over a major network failure that blocked hundreds of thousands of calls on Friday.

BT said it fixed the fault at 0230 GMT on Saturday and its gateways for routing non-geographic calls, special tariff numbers used by customer service centres, were fully operational.

But a spokesman said it would not say what caused the problem, which began on Friday morning, until it had completed its investigations. He said it will consider compensation for businesses affected by the fault.

Companies said their first priority was to meet BT to get assurances that the problem would not happen again.

"What surprised everybody was the speed with which this happened and that it wasn't fixed quickly," said a spokeswoman for National Westminster Bank Plc., whose customer service lines were inundated with calls on Monday from people unable to get through on Friday. "Everybody's been a bit shocked by it." She said it was too early to say if it would claim compensation.

"We'll certainly be looking to sit down with BT to discuss what went wrong and to seek assurances that this won't happen again," said a spokeswoman for BG Transco Plc, the distribution arm of Britain's biggest gas company BG Group Plc .

The company was evaluating the cost of resources it used to track blocked calls to its emergency lines, but said it was too early to talk of compensation.

The fault struck at an embarrassing time for BT. It blocked calls to many Internet service providers as a row with the government over improving access to the Web bubbled on.

It also struck a day after BT announced plans to boost its 27 percent share of the UK's 226 million pound ($360.3 million) call centre industry.

But analysts said the debacle was more likely to hurt its already battered image than its business.

"I can't imagine them losing many customers in the long term, but it's rather unfortunate timing," said Paul Mount of Nomura International Plc.

BT's shares have been beaten down this year partly on dismay over the loss of UK residential customers to competitors. They were 2.8 percent softer on Monday at 11.21 pounds. L28281256.html

-- Martin Thompson (, February 28, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ