Millions of 02 customers have described their day from hell as the network crashed leaving some unable to work, and others fearing for the safety of relatives.
The IT fault at Britain’s second biggest mobile network left furious users cut off from online data services and apps – and many could not even make calls.
The telecoms giant has 25million customers. It also serves another seven million who are signed up to Tesco Mobile, Sky, GiffGaff and Lycamobile.
Jennie O’Grady is one such customer for whom yesterday’s outage brought about immense stress and difficulty.
Jennie O’Grady (left), 39, from Glossop, Derbyshire was left unable to monitor her type-1 diabetic daughter Esme’s (right) blood glucose levels
Meanwhile, Luke Stagg (left), a heating engineer and plumber, said he has been unable to reach several customers due to the outage. And Amy-Jayne Toulson (right), a cleaner from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, suffers from epilepsy and has a watch that monitors for seizures and connects to her mobile phone – sending a message to her caregivers if she has a seizure
She relies on O2 data to monitor her type-1 diabetic daughter Esme’s blood glucose levels.
Esme’s phone links to a continuous glucose monitor that sends information to her mother’s phone to tell her if Esme’s blood sugar levels are dangerously high or low.
But yesterday, after Esme, 12, caught the bus to school and left her house’s wifi signal, Mrs O’Grady, from Glossop, Derbyshire, was unable to track the potentially life-saving data.
The mother-of-three, 39, said: ‘We rely massively on her having internet access. She can be sleeping in her bedroom and it is sending me her blood sugar levels.
‘I would get an alarm to say she is having a hypoglycaemic attack if her blood sugar levels dropped below four, which would mean she need treatment immediately and could go into a coma.
‘Without it I have been completely clueless and I have not been able to check on her.’
Meanwhile, Luke Stagg, a heating engineer and plumber, said he has been unable to reach several customers due to the outage.
The 36-year-old, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, uses his phone’s data to find addresses on his map and says he runs his business through his mobile. He said: ‘I will take it on the chin, but no-one is going to pay for my losses today.’
Last night he said he had difficulty running his business because he was unable to contact customers while on the road or use sat nav.
‘That’s a whole day wasted,’ he said. ‘I’ll be seeking to recoup my losses, especially as a business customer.’
The outage was blamed on a failure in systems operated by O2’s equipment supplier, Swedish firm Ericsson – and even affected mobile phone services as far as Japan
O2 has been keeping customers updated on its website on the latest with the network outage, this was the picture early yesterday morning
And Amy-Jayne Toulson, a cleaner from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, suffers from epilepsy and has a watch that monitors for seizures and connects to her mobile phone – sending a message to her caregivers if she has a seizure.
The 30-year-old said: ‘For people who use their phone like I use it, your mobile phone is your lifeline.’
The system outage, which began just before 5am, was not expected to be fixed until around 9am today – although 02 informed customers on its social media channels last night that 3G service was returning.
A spokesman for the firm told MailOnline last night: ‘Our 3G data service was restored this evening.
Everything you need to know about the O2 outage: Question and answer
When did the network problem start?
The first reports of a loss of access to 4G data services on the mobile network appeared on social media at 4.50am.
Who was affected?
Some 25million customers signed to the O2 network, plus another 7million with Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile, GiffGaff and Lycamobile, which offer services over the same system.
What services were lost?
Access to the internet, emails and apps such as Google maps over the mobile network were lost. Some customers also reported smartphone payments were interrupted. Electronic bus timetable updates on London bus shelters failed.
What about voice calls?
Voice calls continued operating initially. However as more phone owners resorted to making calls rather than sending emails, customers found the system straining under pressure.
What was the cause?
O2 blames software systems operated by the Swedish tech giant Ericsson as part of a global failure that also hit Japan.
Are customers owed compensation?
When customers experienced a seven-hour blackout in 2015, O2 said it would not be offering compensation because of the ‘length and effect of the incident’. It is not clear whether it will offer payouts in this case.
‘Our technical teams will continue working hard with Ericsson engineers to restore 4G which will bring us back to full network service. We’re sorry for the loss of service our customers have experienced today.’
And later that same evening, the firm issued a statement to say it anticipated 4G being restored by 3am.
A spokesman said: ‘Our technical teams have started to return our 4G service to our network.
‘We anticipate this will be restored by 3am this morning meaning all our services will be fully restored.’
It is thought to be the largest and longest mobile internet blackout in the UK.
Now customers are asking what the company is going to do and the firm is expected to face a huge payout if forced to provide compensation.
Should each customer be issued with £5 credit, it would mean the firm has to pay out around £160 million.
Along with frustration to millions of individuals, the glitch hit satnav services in a blow to taxi firms, couriers and food delivery services.
Commuters relying on electronic bus timetables and traffic apps were also affected.
And customers were also blocked from using mobile payment services including Apple Pay and Google Pay – used by millions at shop tills or on transport networks.
Overburdened call lines later buckled as phone users switched to voice calls rather than sending text, Whatsapp or email messages.
Smart meters are also said to have been affected by the outage, as the devices rely on O2 data services – and installations of the devices were reportedly cancelled as a result.
The outage was blamed on a failure in systems operated by O2’s equipment supplier, Swedish firm Ericsson – and even affected mobile phone services as far as Japan.
There is no suggestion the failure was the result of illegal activity or hacking.
However, the disruption shows how vulnerable the nation’s communications system can be. And it demonstrated just how much Britons have come to rely on smartphone access to the internet.
Last night a string of O2 customers spoke of their frustration at the blackout. Lynsey Greaves, who runs a company in Doncaster providing home visits to the elderly and vulnerable, said the failure hit 130 staff who all rely on O2 services to access rotas, schedules and private data.
Thousands took to Twitter today to complain about the outage, but many were able to see the lighter side of the situation (above and below)
She had to call in extra office staff to brief carers about visits over the phone. ‘It’s been a nightmare,’ she said.
Fiona McElroy tweeted that some Uber drivers were unable to work because they had no satnav. She said fares had risen by as much as five times because fewer taxis were available.
She wrote: ‘The O2 network crash throws London into chaos as Uber fares surge up to x5.
‘Drivers using O2 are unable to work so a usual £7 trip quoted as £30-35.’
One Uber driver wrote: ‘Can’t get on the road.. Giffgaff uses O2… Gosh, how long is this gonna last for?’
One customer of the ride hailing service tweeted from the back seat of a journey to say: ‘I have a feeling my Uber driver is making a valiant attempt to find my house without GPS. He’s not winning so far.’
Many took to Twitter the morning of the outage to complain about the impact it was having on them.
BBC presenter Dan Walker and rapper Yungen tweeted they were among the millions of customers who have not been able to access internet services via their phone data.
BBC presenter Dan Walker and rapper Yungen were among those affected by the data outage (above)
Dan Walker tweeted: ‘Anyone know how long this #O2Down business is going on for @O2? I’m currently having to talk to people and look them in the face… it’s very disconcerting.’
Yungen said: ‘Another couple hours of this nonsense @O2 and I’m changing networks. Smh.’
Other O2 customers expressed their anger online, saying they felt the service provider should have warned them about the outage.
How to complain and claim compensation
There are a number of options available to you should you wish to complain about the outage today.
The best way, according to consumer expert Helen Dewdney – who writes a blog called The Complaining Cow – is to do it in writing.
She argues that gives you a record of your complaint.
02 can be contacted by email or post here:
O2 Complaints Review Service, PO BOX 694, Winchester, SO23 5AP
You are entitled to a full refund for the time you were unable to use your phone, writes Ms Dewdney.
This is according to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which says that services should be ‘carried out with reasonable skill and care’.
Dipesh Parag, of Northamptonshire, tweeted: ‘Once again O2 disappoints me with no 4G or even 3G in the area. No warning or emails to say it’s down.
‘Hope I get compensation for this as it’s constantly like this. Can’t wait for my contract to end. You stay loyal for nothing.’
Emily-Kate Brewer added: ‘After having several masts down in my area for weeks and not being able to make or receive calls.
‘I’ve now woken this morning to no data. My partner is now having to navigate his own way round London with no sat nav. Really not good enough!’
Wayne Tuckwell tweeted: ‘What is wrong with the network this morning, O2? No data in Gloucester.’
And Annie Bass said: ‘O2 network? Down? Really?! O2, appalling coverage all the time anyway, can’t wait to switch out my service provider.’
Some users managed were able to see the funny side of the outage.
One person posted a picture of Manchester United footballer Romelu Lukaku with the caption ‘Things more useful than O2 #o2down.’
Another person tweeted an image of smashed chocolate and sweets next to a hammer, writing: ‘Playing Candy Crush whilst O2 is down! The old fashioned way.’
Other suggested the service provider ‘turn the internet on and off again’.
Social media users were quick to poke fun at the O2 data outage today, as up to 32million customers are left without internet for hours
Some O2 customers were able to see the funny side of the data outage, despite not having internet for hours (above and below)
A user called Lucy wrote: ‘O2 is down and here I was trying to convince my mum to let me come home from school but couldn’t.’
The glitch also had a knock-on effect for other services that rely on the O2 network, including Transport for London’s electronic timetable service at bus stops. Many customers contacted O2 via social media demanding compensation for loss of service. But the company remained silent on the issue.
The failure effectively shut down 4G data services accessed via the mobile phone network.
It was possible to connect to the internet via wi-fi, but this was no use to those travelling.
Ericsson, which was once the world’s biggest supplier of mobile communications gear, said in a statement: ‘We are aware of the issue and are working together with our customers to solve it as soon as possible.’
Nescafé and Vodafone even waded in on Twitter offering coffee and help (above and below)
Mark Evans, chief executive of Spanish firm Telefonica UK – which owns O2 – tried to placate customers last night as the hours ticked by with no resumption in service.
‘I want to reassure our customers that we are doing everything we can to fix the issue with our network and say how sorry I am to everyone affected,’ he said.
‘My teams are working really hard with Ericsson to find a swift resolution.’ Hundreds of technicians were put to work on solving the problem, he said last night.
He also apologised on behalf of the firm, saying: ‘We fully appreciate it’s been a poor experience and we are really sorry.’
Mr Evans told the BBC staff were ‘working around the clock’ to identify the issue and said Ericsson had assured him the network would be fully restored by this morning.
Alex Neill, of consumer watchdog Which?, said: ‘Millions of O2 customers will have spent the day quite rightly angry and frustrated by the outage.
‘Your mobile phone is such an integral part of being able to live and work, so it is very worrying that one of the world’s biggest mobile networks has failed for so long and without any real explanation.’