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back to article GiffGaff goes titsup again in 'leccy cable gaffe

People-powered O2 spinoff GiffGaff suffered an outage this morning, apparently due to a power cut, and there's no estimated time-to-fix as yet. The network, whose USP is that it's run by its customers, explains that a burst water main has wrecked the electricity supply to one of its central control sites, leaving the entire …

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USP?

They'd be better off with a UPS.

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Re: USP?

Is that an underwater power supply?

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Coat

USP?

Sounds like it needs a UPS!

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re. USP?

Snap!

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Working fine in Aberdeen.

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Anonymous Coward

not for me it isn't

Some cell tower near filthy mc nasties

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Hmmm who reported this story to you guys lol

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It's plastered all over the giffgaff forums

See above

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My wife and I have no text, data or voice capability... Rather annoying as this is her first day on Giff Gaff.

The issue is not on the front page because:

"The reason we've not got this up on the main page (which we usually do in terms of wider issues with a "men at work" announcement) is that the system that we use to change this sort of thing on the site is affected by this outage too."

At lead they are being open, honest and keeping to regular updates.

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"The issue is not on the front page because...the system that we use to change this sort of thing on the site is affected by this outage too."

Er, they can't access their hosting provider from any Internet connection on the planet?

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I should have added I'm working in London and my wife is at home today in Hertfordshire.

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Coat

You have

A day of peace, lucky sod!!

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Strangely I'm ok with this...

But if this was some money grabbing mega corp like EE I wouldn't be so happy... besides S.O.P. for <evil money grabbing mega corp> would be just to leave you in the dark so there is that too...

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Re: Strangely I'm ok with this...

GiffGaff's wholly owned by O2...

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Re: Strangely I'm ok with this...

True, but it is run as a separate entity.

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Silver badge

This is what happens when you let users run your service - no clue about a Business Continuity plan, and no thoughts on Disaster Recovery

</sarcasm off>

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Users run nothing at giffgaff. Users do get to cut&paste mostly random 'help' in the support forums. giffgaff - delivering answers in seconds, CORRECT answers much later ;)

giffgaff seems to have no in house tech staff, basically just a marketting operation with everything else outsourced. Makes getting things fixed quickly difficult.

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FAIL

correct answers? giffgaff? haha.

Correct answers "much later"? You're not using the same Giffgaff then... I find it is "not at all" rather than "much later"

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Flame

<fuming>Have those muppets never heard of a backup site?</fuming>

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Alert

The backups...

...are in place but for some reason the planned failover did not work.

There will be an audit once everything is sorted out and working again.

Incoming is working OK, outgoing is broken because the billing system is unreachable and the network can't establish that you have credit.

Currently they're suggesting trying a reboot to see if data works, voice is still out.

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Anonymous Coward

Haha @ UPS comments.

I'm on GiffGaff and their service is patchy as hell - it has major capacity issues which they never admit (tested via multiple handsets etc). It typically hits in congested parts of London (most of London, then!) and calls are dropped instantly, one gets the service unavailable tones when attempting to connect a call, I've even had HALF-duplex calls where the recipient can't hear me and thinks it's a prank call(!), SMS fail to send, and don't get me started on internet reliability.

Currently, one cannot even login to the GG site, as they amusingly are doing maintenance at this critical time (or so the landing page says):

http://giffgaff.com/auth/outage.html

http://community.giffgaff.com/t5/Help-Ask-the-community-got-stuck/Issues-with-service-Friday-16th-March-please-read/td-p/3424479/page/7

Apparently the O2 infrastructure that GiffGaff piggybacks on is working fine - it's just that the poor cousins we are get shrugged-off as soon as there's a problem... So you cannot say that it's a general O2 infrastructure problem.

In my area they're doing maintenance and the O2 site admits it for once, but service is ALWAYS unreliable... (I use 2G as 3G wastes battery and internet is worthless for me under GG and my handset) and strangely the first three character of the postcode (SW17) show no problem, whilst the full postcode shows a maintenance issue... :/

http://status.o2.co.uk/

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Problem?

Sounds just like every other mobile network then.....

And these people have a cheek to charge us money for delivering half-baked service?

I'm on GiffGaff and their service is patchy as hell - it has major capacity issues which they never admit (tested via multiple handsets etc). It typically hits in congested parts of London (most of London, then!) and calls are dropped instantly, one gets the service unavailable tones when attempting to connect a call, I've even had HALF-duplex calls where the recipient can't hear me and thinks it's a prank call(!), SMS fail to send, and don't get me started on internet reliability.

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@AC Friday 16th March 2012 13:46 GMT

> strangely the first three character of the postcode (SW17) show no problem, whilst the full postcode shows a maintenance issue

That would be because SW1 and SW17 aren't near each other.

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Ale

@AC 13:46

I was on O2 before moving to giffgaff. The O2 network was just as patchy in London. In fact I think it got better after I moved to giffgaff.

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Stop

Sometimes...

Jobs such as these are perhaps best left to the professionals.

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Anonymous Coward

At least they are being very open about the issue

Their notice board has been updated very few minutes by a staffer, which is pretty good. And at least they've got data up now, and incoming texts (but still no calls or outgoing texts, apart from 999 calls which have been unaffected as far as I can tell). Very odd.

Either way though, it's not affecting me much as o2 are bust in my area generally (http://status.o2.co.uk/)!

"Live results for PR2, Preston, Lancs

Sorry we're currently working on a phone mast in this area

You might experience problems making calls, using the internet, or sending/receiving emails in this area.

Updated 13:30 (refreshed hourly). Recent faults might not show yet."

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Re: At least they are being very open about the issue

Emergency calls will work as the signalling sent to the network defines emergency call so connects on any of the mobile networks available, if you are on EE in the highlands outside their coverage and dialled 999 you may connect to the emergency services using Voda or O2's network but the call would be allowed as it's deemed life at risk.

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Re: At least they are being very open about the issue

You're right about the signalling defining the call but your statement isn't actually correct as far as the UK is concerned.

While it's technically possible for an emergency call to be placed on any network available (with or without a SIM), in the UK a network will only accept an emergency call if you're using a SIM issued by that network (or a SIM from a roaming partner). If you're using a SIM from another UK network or a SIM is absent then your call isn't going to connect.

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Vic
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Re: At least they are being very open about the issue

> in the UK a network will only accept an emergency call if you're using

> a SIM issued by that network (or a SIM from a roaming partner)

Errr - you sure about that?

I'm pretty sure you can place an emergency call with any phone on any network...

Vic.

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Bronze badge

Still down, but it usually works OK for me.

Mind that I live outside the M25 moat, innit.

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Thumb Up

Don't they go on...

I switched all my company mobiles (40+) to Giffgaff back in December. My monthly bill has dropped from £700 to around £150. The phone/text service has been much on a par with any other operator, the internet is not a patch on 3 but works after a fashion - slowly. The bugs in their card acceptance seems to have been resolved and this is the first major outage I have experienced and I'm not terribly distressed about it - shit happens.

Perhaps all the twatterers and bookfacers can temporarily get a life during this period of peace and quiet rather than telling the world what brand of toilet paper they prefer and using 'would of' instead of 'would have'.

It'll be back before long - its not the end of the world. Enjoy the silence

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't they go on...

Aye, annoying when phone shows signal and cant make or recieve calls. But data appears to be working fine. Now going to try skype....Yay that works. got some free skype credit month ago on some skype promo and now finiding it handy apart form the aspect that nobody recognises my calling number.

Crazy thing is had I posted this on the giffgaff forums I'd of gotten 10p for it :p

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Giffgaff is fine normally

OK - it's down today but the only problems I've had in the past have been O2-related (mast-maintenance etc) not GiffGaff's fault.

And my data connection is fine normally. Maybe slow connections are a London thing (Yorkshire here.)

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Windows

Re: Giffgaff is fine normally

It's not just GG that's slow in London. Vodafone was chronically bad, which is why I switched. I'm a bit miffed, but I'm not too upset considering that my jésusphone now costs me a princely £10/mo to run (and I can use Spotify on the mobile without the terror that comes from an overage charge).

Besides, the only time I ever contacted voda's support was when their billing went up the swanny, at least GG don't charge me for freefone calls.

I am a little bit surprised that there appears to be a single point of failiure for both voice and data - given O2's involvement, I would have expected some more resilience. That said, I'm so not a mobile telecoms infrastructure expert (but that doesn't stop me pretending to be one on the internet!)

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Anonymous Coward

Was a bit annoyed when it went down this morning, I was live tweeting from a conference for the monkeys back in the office. But shit happens.

However now I'm raging: I need to call people to find out which pub we're meeting in after work! How dare they interfere with my alcoholism!

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Anonymous Coward

you failed already

It's cheltenham, day off in the pub since opening, and my horse came in.

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FAIL

BCM and service delivery...

The root problem here is not the burst water pipe/power outage.

It is the complete lack of business continuity management and service delivery ethos that is plainly missing.

This is not rocket science. I was doing this 15years ago at BAT, 10 years ago at Global Crossing, and more recently for SME's. Most people will tolerate an outage, as they understand that things break. But they only understand when you communicate with them, and keep them informed. Giffgaff have been less then proactive in this case. It was my comment on the GG forums that provoked the response quoted earlier re a message on the GG landing page. At midday there were over 7000 people on the site, in all likelihood seeking an update or logging an issue. I would not be surprised to find the server has since buckled under the load, leaving everyone in the dark.

In terms of BCM, it is shocking that they use a single location to hold the access and accounting servers that control network access. This was evident when trying to obtain an account update and logging a service call because one could not use the network. Good network design would have had multiple AAA servers, for load sharing as well as resiliency. One wonders how many other SPFs exist in GGs infrastructure.

This is not 'new'. 9/11, anybody? Why does an inherently fragile technology market insist on recruiting the under-30's, who have no memory/experience of major outages or service delivery, and whom thus blithely assume that "because it hasn't happened... it won't", as opposed to the >40's who have been there, seen it, done it, recovered from it, and mitigated against it :-)

Someone in GiffGaff deserves a rollicking - and then being given responsibility for BCM going forwards, as you can be sure they won't make this mistake again.

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Re: BCM and service delivery...

I get the impression that GiffGaff has a higher proportion of IT- and business-savvy users than other networks but assumes its much-vaunted user-community is just there to help it with marketing and grunt-level technical support. Perhaps it should invite some voluntary participation in its business continuity planning instead of exchanging points for duplicate and potentially misleading forum entries.

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Re: BCM and service delivery...

BCM costs money, it sounds like that's where GG economized to undercut their competition. As always, if something's cheap, there's a reason.

Of course, BCM is an end-to-end concept, it includes checking that all your suppliers have BCM plans that are adequate to meet your service needs. If anyone is using GG for business use, and didn't check this, they really have no cause for complaint. They saved money, and didn't ask what corners were being cut. Now they know.

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Seeing as one of my friends has just started working for Giffgaff i asked him what the problem was.

His response was:

" burst water main has killed power to our MVNE :( "

And as the MVNE is "a company that provides services to mobile virtual network operators, such as billing, network element provisioning, administration, operations, support of business support systems and operations support systems, and provision of back end network elements, to enable provision of mobile network services like cellular phone connectivity." (thanks wikipedia) it does make the problem appear worse...

The fact that they do use an MVNE actually means that Giffgaff can run with lower *internal* overheads and focus more on their brand, customer loyalty and marketing, whilst the MVNE does the back end work.

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There seem to be loads of pompous twats suddenly nominating themselves to be experts on system redundancy and backup, but how realistic are they being?

A few years ago, the Betamax and Finarea cheap phone brands suffered an outage due to a fire in one of their servers. They said they might not be able to restore service until tomorrow, but they actually managed it the same afternoon, with call records initially backed up to a day or two earlier then brought up to date later.

I'd say that's fair enough, a reasonable time, it's ridiculous to expect recovery to be absolutely instant in what is not designed as an emergency system. I expect giffgaff's supplier's systems are on the way back at a similar rate, with pumps and generators probably in the picture somewhere.

I think it's also ridiculous to talk about backup without any consideration of the importance of he system and the likelihood and consequences of failure. Losing phone service for some ordinary mobile customers isn't the same as the police and ambulance losing communication service, and their systems will be more hardened.

What annoys me about these experts on nothing at all, pontificating about designing in redundancy, is the imaginary answer to the rhetorical question - how many of them are carrying 2 phones, or SIM cards from 3 different networks?

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realism

The first part of any BCM plan is the risk analysis. What can go wrong, how likely is it, and how much damage can it do. Everything descends from that. To take your example, I don't carry two phones because having no phone for a day would only be a minor inconvenience. I do have two computers on my desk.

If GG's basic service conditions say "if we go tits up we'll try to get it back ASAP, but it might take us a week or two" then their current model looks just fine. Most people expect a modern phone company to offer 5- or 6- nines of service, but may be willing to pay less if they don't need that. What does GG claim to offer, and do their customers ask?

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Anonymous Coward

Err I do actually carry an alternate sim card, don't have a spare phone, but spare battery/charger yes....

Its good to have a backup plan...

But then again I don't go anywhere without a multi-tool strapped to my belt (i hate flying as I must check it in the hold!), a torch in my pocket/bag and a handful of plastic covered metal paperclips(100's of uses)...

Oh and a watch with a build in slide rule....

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FAIL

Poor service, worse customer service

Firstly, its impossible to contact giffgaff and that's just how they like it.

Secondly, where are the batteries / UPS / Generators? How can a power cut take out a telco?

Pathetic.

Then, I made a complaint ,asking about generators and batteriesl.... and giffgaff REMOVED IT.

They don't like bad press.

num_giff_gaff_members = num_giff_gaff_members - 1

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor service, worse customer service

The only FAIL about Giff Gaff is your understanding of it

Giff Gaff charges the UK's lowest price of a tenner for unlimited data, unlimited texts and 250 mins

Not to forget unlimited free calls between Giff Gaff handsets.

The average Giff Gaff unit price of calls/megabytes/texts all rolled together must be like under a penny or even less if you one of those people who hammer it to death.

The ONLY way they can bring customers this ultra low price is by not having many staff and doing things by the cheap. Like web response instead of a callcentre.

You seem to be expecting five star hotel where staff carry your bags and a man plays the piano in reception while they hand out champagne - all for travelodge prices?

I know you have a right to be upset if it doesn't work but you have to remember this network is an experiment, they make NO guarantees and problems will happen now and again I guarantee it.

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How can a power cut take it out?

Very easily, as I already said

if there is a fire, maybe a sprinkler or extinguisher system has operated after the power being deliberately shut off, and it will take time to clean stuff up, replace some of the equipment on the racks, cables with burned insulation, and so on.

Or in the case of a flood, the power has to be off while the water is being pumped out, and while there might be people standing in the water, possibly water or electricity company employees as well as the contractors to the site itself

While this is happening, there may be diversion of load to other centres if available, if the load is usually distributed across a number of sites, but that might cause capacity issues

And it seems to be that risk and that availability that people are winding themselves up about at the moment. But some people do have service and some do not, so it isn't all in the same place.

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giffgaff are shitshat......Well thats what all the blokes on my building site are calling it!...and i for one am not arguing.........there's hundreds of em!!

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Lovely day

Lovely day at work out & about no calls from office.Best days work in ages.

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Anonymous Coward

hmm

I like giffgaff, I have always got a response from questions on the website, they are very good value for money, it's a bit dissapointing to not have everything work for a few hours, but I guess if you don't like it you can leave, it's not like you are in a 12,18 or 24 month contract is it.

As I have a couple of sims on giffgaff I got three I'm sorry messages so I guess they are very very very sorry.

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