Millions of mobile phone users around the world have been unable to use their smartphones after a software issue in systems provided by Ericsson caused major disruption.
Japanese smartphone users on the SoftBank network and British customers on O2 were left frustrated on Thursday by a significant outage and a lack of clarity about when service would be resumed.
O2’s 4G network crashed around 5am local time in the UK, leaving millions of customers without data access.
O2 said in a statement: “One of our global suppliers has identified a global software issue in the system.”
The mobile network said it was working with the supplier to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and other telecoms companies around the world had also suffered outages.
The issue related to Ericsson equipment, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation. The Swedish company is also a supplier to SoftBank in Japan.
“We are aware of the issue,” said an Ericsson spokesman, who added that the company was working closely with its network customers on a fix.
O2 did not name the supplier but confirmed it was not Huawei, the Chinese company whose chief financial officer was arrested in Canada on Saturday.
O2, which is owned by Spain’s Telefónica, has 32m customers on its network, including Tesco Mobile and GiffGaff. O2 was at the centre of a major network outage in 2012 when customers were not able to access services for 25 hours. It suffered a smaller 40-minute outage in September of this year.
Large parts of SoftBank’s mobile network also remained out of operation across central Japan on Thursday, after customers primarily in Tokyo and Osaka lost connectivity at 1:39pm local time.
In a statement on its website, SoftBank apologised to customers and said that it was “examining the cause” of the problem. The company said the issue stemmed from problems with some of its switches for the high-speed wireless LTE network.
The outage struck less than two weeks before a scheduled initial public offering for SoftBank’s mobile business, a share issue that will be Japan’s largest in history and has been overwhelmingly pitched at retail investors. SoftBank is hoping to raise up to $23bn from the listing.
SoftBank has had several disruptions to its mobile service in the past, including a major incident in February of this year.
Tokyo-listed shares in SoftBank fell as much as 6 per cent on Thursday amid a broader sell-off, touching their intraday low following reports of the service disruption.