UK TELECOMS WATCHDOG Ofcom has slapped Three with a £1.9m fine after uncovering a weakness in the network's emergency call network.
Ofcom said on Friday that Three "broke a key rule" designed to ensure that everyone can contact 999 services at all times, a rule it described as "of utmost importance to public health and safety".
Ofcom notified Three about the loss of services, affecting customers in Kent, Hampshire and parts of London, on 6 October after an investigation found that Three's emergency call services were vulnerable to a single point of failure.
"Three's network should have been able to automatically divert emergency calls via backup routes in the event of a local outage. But these backup routes would also have failed because they were all directed through this one point," Ofcom explains.
In its ruling, which sees Three slapped with a £1,890,000 penalty, Ofcom said that while the operator did not act "deliberately or recklessly", the fine reflects "the seriousness of the breach, given the potential impact on public health and safety."
Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom's enforcement and investigations director, said: "Telephone access to the emergency services is extremely important because failures can have serious consequences for people's safety and wellbeing.
"Today's fine serves as a clear warning to the wider telecoms industry. Providers must take all necessary to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services."
Three, which has bagged itself a 30 per cent discount on the fine due to its cooperation during Ofcom's investigation, said it takes the problem "extremely seriously."
"Three therefore acknowledges Ofcom's decision today to fine Three for a single point of vulnerability on Three's network," a spokesperson said. "However, this vulnerability has not had any impact on our customers and only relates to a potential point of failure in Three's network.
"Ofcom identified this vulnerability when investigating a separate, unprecedented and unforeseeable October 2016 fibre break outage on Three's network. This resulted in a temporary loss of emergency call services affecting some customers. Three took immediate action and the issue was quickly resolved.
"Ofcom recognises that the circumstances surrounding the October 2016 fibre break outage were exceptional and outside of Three's control. As a result, the incident itself was not a breach of Ofcom's rules." µ
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