KDDI finally restores mobile service after 86 hours of outage

TOKYO (Kyodo) — KDDI Corp. said its “au” mobile phone service was fully restored by Tuesday afternoon, ending 86 hours of service outages that affected millions of customers and a range of business activities.

But the company’s woes were far from over amid growing criticism over its handling of the unusually long network disruption, including from the regulator, while affected customers demanded appropriate compensation.

The company said the day before that voice calls and data communications had nearly been restored across the country after the disruption that began in the early hours of Saturday.

The service outage affected up to 39.15 million mobile connections, disrupting banking systems, weather data transmission, package deliveries and network-connected cars, among others.

Earlier on Tuesday, Home Affairs and Communications Minister Yasushi Kaneko criticized KDDI for its handling of the disruption, saying the mobile operator had failed to provide enough information to customers in a timely manner.

The company “failed to fulfill its responsibility as a telecom operator” with some customers still unable to make voice calls after KDDI said it completed restoration work on Sunday, Kaneko told reporters .

Given the unprecedented impact of the outage, the government will set up an expert group to compile measures to prevent a recurrence, Kaneko said.

Referring to the disruption of emergency calls, the Minister said: “It is extremely regrettable that this has come to the point of potentially threatening people’s lives and we are taking the situation seriously.”

KDDI, Japan’s second-largest mobile operator by subscribers, first suffered an outage around 1:35 a.m. Saturday. The company said Monday afternoon that its services were nearly restored nationwide, but it did not announce that the issues were resolved, saying it still needed time to check its network.

The company said on Tuesday that its services were fully restored as of 3:36 p.m.

The Japan Meteorological Agency demanded that KDDI come up with measures to prevent a similar incident after suspending data distribution from its regional weather observation system.

The system observes and distributes temperature and precipitation data. Of the approximately 1,300 observing stations nationwide, about 550 had stopped transmitting data due to the outage, said Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Tetsuo Saito, adding that the situation was returned to normal.

“The system’s real-time observation data is important for local people and organizations involved in disaster prevention,” Saito told reporters on Tuesday.

Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto has asked the country’s 47 prefectures to make efforts to prevent any impact on medical services in the event of a similar situation, he told reporters on Tuesday.

Some municipalities reported that medical facilities were unable to communicate with doctors and on-call drivers delivering pulse oximeters to coronavirus patients due to the outage, he said.

“To ensure there is no serious interference with medical and nursing services, we will work with prefectural governments to ensure a stable system,” Goto said.

The network outage occurred when a router for voice calls was replaced during regular maintenance, with repair work triggering a concentration of traffic that led the company to reduce user access.

During that time, the carrier experienced a cascade of technical issues that further prolonged connection difficulties.

The latest service outage follows a system failure at NTT Docomo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile operator, in October last year that lasted around 29 hours and affected at least 12.9 million of users.

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