IMDA starts probe into M1's 33-hour outage

A fibre broadband disruption at telco M1 lasted as long as 33 hours when many were working and studying from home to stem the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak, prompting a stern warning from the industry regulator.

In a statement yesterday, regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said it has started investigations and would “not hesitate to take strong enforcement action should there be any lapses on M1’s part”.

“IMDA takes a serious view of any service disruption to public telecommunications, especially during the circuit breaker period where many are working and studying from home,” an IMDA spokesman said.

Yesterday, many subscribers continued to face Internet connection issues even after the telco said services had been restored earlier in the morning.

Full service restoration took place only around 2pm yesterday, more than 33 hours after connectivity problems were first reported on the Downdetector website, which logs Internet outages, at 4.30am on Tuesday.

“We have rectified a network issue that affected fibre broadband Internet traffic service,” the telco said on its Facebook page.

It did not specify what the issue was, and did not respond to queries from The Straits Times.

To reconnect to their fibre broadband services, users were told to switch off and on their optical network terminals and routers, which many did.

The disruption affected thousands of subscribers in various parts of Singapore – including Sengkang, Upper Thomson, Hougang and Sembawang – and underscores the importance of having a backup network.

Technology consultant Larry Leong, 52, said he subscribes to two Internet service providers (ISPs) to mitigate the risk of service providers running into equipment problems.

“Subscribing to two different 500Mbps networks offers more redundancy than buying a 1Gbps connection from one ISP,” said Mr Leong.

Senior quantity surveyor Phan Li Min said she had to switch to using mobile data to do work. “I am working from home and it is troublesome,” said the 33-year-old.

Many people need the connectivity during the extended circuit breaker period when physical movements are restricted.

Retiree Tan Lye Han, 64, who lives in Ang Mo Kio, said the disruption created psychological problems for her.

Her son, Mr Kevin Ong, 29, has special needs and has been feeling anxious at home.

She said: “He usually (connects to the Internet) to keep himself busy with shows and movies, and I also go online to read to him and teach him spelling.

“He has been very upset and restless without the Internet for over 24 hours now.

“With the circuit breaker measures, everyone is staying home and the Internet is the only way we can stay connected with the outside world.”

Others were upset they could not get help through M1’s hotline.

Mr Andrew Koh, 38, who works in the airline sector, said: “I haven’t been able to reach M1 on their hotline or over Facebook.

“I did get through to the IMDA but all they could tell me was that they are chasing M1 too.”

Automotive consultant Simon Ho, who is in his 50s, said he restarted his router and modem multiple times but could not resolve the problem. He also could not get through to M1’s hotline.

“The frustration is not so much over the connection problems, but that customers like myself totally cannot get any help,” he said.

Last month, two network service disruptions on the same day affected thousands of StarHub subscribers and were attributed to network equipment failure and a domain name server issue.

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