Telenor Red-faced as Problems Grow

Beleaguered staff at Telenor’s headquarters were left having to apologize for three new, separate errors that affected customers across the country before and during the weekend – including an error at a large hospital in Oslo that meant new patients could not be admitted for 14 hours, as well as one that left a local authority without landline connections for six days.

The new problems began on Friday just a week after up to three million mobile telephone customers were unable to use Telenor services for as long as 18 hours during the Pentecost holiday weekend. Telenor had already delivered a report on those problems and promised compensation – and now faces further investigations and embarrassment.

Friday’s latest problems in the mobile network began after a breach in a connection between Bodø and Trondheim in north Norway. According to Telenor, this led to 15 seconds of “instability,” after which affected telephones needed to be updated. This updating process caused signal problems that central exchanges could not handle, leaving some clients in northern regions without telephone services between 14.30 and 17.30. The problems mostly involved the 2G network (also known as the GSM network), meaning considerably fewer customers were affected than the week before, when as many as 3 million people experienced problems.

A director of Telenor Norway, Bjørn Amundsen, told news agency NTB that the company “understands that customers are frustrated,” adding that “if it is any consolation, we are frustrated as well.”

Just a day later, Akershus University Hospital in Oslo was left without telephones or data systems for 14 hours from Saturday to Sunday, during which new patients could not be admitted and 13 patients were turned away. Chief county medical officer Petter Schou told newspaper Aftenposten that had the events lasted longer, a serious crisis would have affected the enter region of Oslo and surrounding counties. Although Telenor provides network services to the hospital, the problems were not connected to any other the issues Telenor has been having in recent times, and the reason for the problems is as yet unknown.

Health minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen told NTB that she will now have a full investigation into the matter. Two such investigations have already been launched by both the health authority and the hospital itself. “It is obviously very serious when the data system prevents the admittance of new patients,” Strøm-Erichsen said, although the minister was relieved that crisis management systems, including a new digital emergency network, worked and it “does not look like it has harmed patient safety.” Hospital staff also used private telephones and other means to communicate between departments.

In yet another separate incident, landline connections to the local municipality operations in Åfjord, north Norway, were down for nearly seven days after recent storms battered the area. The region had been hit by a record number of lightening strikes that originally caused the problem, which was first reported on Sunday 12 June. According to Kent Hallbäck, the head of health and welfare at the local municipality who spoke to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), he heard “nothing” back from Telenor between when the problem was reported and when the landlines returned to operation. He confirmed that the “town hall, doctor’s service, home nursing service, hospital and biggest school” in the region of 3,220 people “had all lost connections.” Telenor were able to, as a temporary measure, put in place a call transfer service from the doctors’ office’s number to a mobile phone that could be used by the practice.

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