At 3 p.m. on Thursday 13th June 2019, Vodafone customers took to social media to complain that their service was down (if they were able to, on account of their service being down). There was, said Vodafone, an international link that had encountered a problem.
It turned out it was quite an important link. Customers in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Germany and Greece were affected. And then it turned out that customers in Australia and India were also affected.
Leaping to the rescue, Vodafone responded with this:
“This could take some time before they (mobile data and broadband services) are working as normal. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.”
Outages, of course, happen (mind you, the response probably increased the irritation levels) and it is probably unfair to single out Vodafone, but hey. If this had happened in isolation, this article would probably never have been written.
But it comes on the back of news that Google Cloud encountered similar problems. And because of access to the cloud being compromised the company couldn’t, er, access the tools they needed to fix the problem. At this point you begin to realise that if you fast forward five years, the problem would be serious on a different scale.
Yes, both recent outages caused inconvenience, annoyance and temporary loss of access to probably highly important data.
But if, in five years’ time, 5G networks are embedding themselves in factories and hospitals and war rooms and electricity stations an outage is no laughing matter.
Even if said factories and hospitals and war rooms have put in their own private 5G networks there still needs to be pipes coming in from the outside. International links or cloud access for instance.
Of course, there are back-ups and fail safes and switch overs and what not.
But outages will happen and if companies are going to go with public 5G they will need to know that it will work all the time. In fact, they will pay for guaranteed QoS (article on this coming in a few days).
If it turns out that operators cannot actually guarantee it, then the prospects are not good. And they can’t. Particularly so if, so we are told, 5G is potentially a hacker’s playground.
We could nationalise the whole thing (which would probably make the situation worse). We could…. Er, no…that’s all we’ve got. Let’s just hope (against hope) that the Vodafone network (other international links are available) and Google Cloud don’t go down at the same time.
Wait, we could switch it off and switch it….