Thousands still unable to use Telecom XT after crash

12:07, Feb 01 2010

A fault in Telecom's XT mobile network cutting services to thousands of customers continued tonight.

Telecom said at 10pm that a number of cell sites in areas in the lower South Island, including Dunedin, Invercargill, Timaru and Queenstown, were still affected, resulting in a loss of XT service those areas.

XT users in other areas were still experiencing intermittent service issues.

Chief executive Paul Reynolds said the company would look closely at compensation claims once the problem was fixed.

"I apologise to our customers who have been inconvenienced, but also recognise that words are not enough. That's why we are taking rapid action."

Mr Reynolds had commissioned an urgent independent review to ensure Telecom was taking all reasonable steps for its customers.

XT users should call emergency services from a landline and could also check their voicemail that way.

Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds said today the crash was caused by a piece of hardware which began signalling erratically and degrading the network's service.

Engineers worked through the night and would continue this morning to restore service to 40 of the 1000 South Island cell sites still affected, which left about 10,000 customers south of Christchurch without service this morning, he told Radio New Zealand.

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Customers were offered a day's mobile usage, plus a weekend of free calling, after the December 14 network crash.

That fault was attributed to corrupt software, uncovered during maintenance, triggering a network-load equipment failure.

Jenny Hardgreave, office manager at Wellington firm Key Electrical, said she was unable to contact electricians out of the office, and staff would have to find a landline in order to ring in. She would have to forward calls from the office's landline to her personal Vodafone mobile when she left the office at extra cost to the company.

"It's bloody annoying. I'm expecting another credit from Telecom for this one."

XT customer Jozeph Maru-Broughton said he had applied for several jobs and was expecting to hear back on his mobile as he did not have a landline.

"I just hope they call back. It [the network] is meant to be faster in more places. How can it be faster in more places if it doesn't even work? ... I'm pissed off."

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Ernie Newman said the network crash was frustrating for major users.

"There's a tremendous amount of dislocation of business that goes on, quite apart from the impact on the average consumer. Telecom themselves will be mortified by it."

Simply compensating customers for the outage would not be enough. Telecom needed to explain what went wrong, how it had fixed it and provide assurances it would not recur. "It's an essential service and the consequence of it going down goes far beyond anything a few free calls ... can compensate for."

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said Telecom had perhaps rushed the launch of the network, and customers needed to be compensated for the outage.

"They really encouraged people to take it up and people took it up in droves."

There were 242,000 customers on the XT network as of September 30.

-  Stuff.co.nz, NZPA and Dominion Post