Software bugs most common cause for mobile Internet outages, study says

The outages affected 1.4 million user connections on average per incident

A growing number of mobile Internet outages were caused by bugs as networks become more software dependent.

Ninety big outages affected fixed and mobile networks across Europe last year. Approximately half of those hit mobile Internet and mobile telephony services, according to a report published by Enisa (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security).

A closer look at what caused the mobile Internet outages revealed that 40 percent happened because of software bugs, compared to 15 percent during 2012. The corresponding share for fixed Internet was just 9 percent.

Mobile networks are becoming more software dependent and the telecom sector is becoming more IT-like where vendors launch software that isn't as well tested as in the past, according to Sylvain Fabre, research director at Gartner.

Hardware failures, power cuts and software misconfigurations were other common causes of mobile Internet outages.

The problem isn't just the number of incidents, but the number of people affected. The mobile Internet outages affected 1.4 million user connections on average, compared to 100,000 connections for fixed Internet connections.

The only upside was that outages caused by software bugs were fixed in five hours on average.

Incidents caused by fire and heavy snowfall had the longest duration at 86 hours and 62 hours, respectively. The average time for the 6 percent of incidents that were categorized as malicious attacks was also high at 53 hours. However, that figure was skewed by one unindentified incident that took almost a week to resolve, according to Enisa.

Fixed services weren't affected by as many incidents as mobile services. The difference was partly due to the fact that some of the affected components in mobile networks were more centrally located and therefore affected more users, Enisa said.

The reason for the report's existence is Article 13a of the EU Framework Directive. It forces providers of fixed and mobile Internet as well as telephony services to report incidences to local authorities. Incident reporting and discussing actual incidents is essential to understanding the risks and what can be improved, according to Enisa.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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