Fri | Nov 22, 2019

‘Disruption headache’...Digicel, FLOW ordered to provide interruption notices and updates

Published:Friday | November 8, 2019 | 5:41 PM
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The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) says it has instructed telecommunications service providers, Digicel and FLOW, to immediately provide their customers with service interruption notifications and updates on service restoration times.

This comes against the background of persistent quality of service issues such as data and voice service interruption.

The OUR explains that these include dropped calls, calls not being initiated and delays in contacting customer service with sometimes inadequate redress.

OUR says its leadership met with Digicel and FLOW executives last week to discuss the service quality issues and made it clear that it had serious concerns about the current service levels and what appears to be a lack of diligence in their resolution.

Cause of service disruption at Digicel

According to the regulator, Digicel explained that its service issues resulted from the implementation of its modernisation programme which began two years ago.

After this is completed, the company said, customers should experience little to no significant disruption in service and should also see improvements in the quality of service.

Disruption at Flow

And FLOW reportedly informed the OUR that it has made substantial technology/capacity upgrades to its network in order to provide its customers with improved service quality.

The company, according to OUR,  asserted that the significant increase in data traffic due to these upgrades, resulted in “a signalling storm” on the network which subsequently caused service disruption.

They also indicated that steps have been taken to increase the signalling capacity and implement additional network redundancies.

Flow claimed that the incidents of service disruption were isolated and not related to a general failure of their telecommunications infrastructure.

The company also noted that a significant portion of service disruption was due to vandalism of its network and some of the ongoing road works.

FLOW representatives gave the assurance that the causes of the recent service disruptions in October were identified and have since been resolved.

OUR wants action 

OUR Director General Ansord Hewitt said in a statement that the regulator expected network upgrades to be carried out with minimum dislocation to customers and where unavoidable, customers should be kept updated and given specific notifications.

Both companies reportedly admitted that the steep and rapid rise in the demand and use of data, which requires constant adjustments had hampered their service delivery.

They also reportedly conceded that they have not been sharp and clear in their customer communication and education.

The OUR says the companies have committed to providing their customers and the agency with service interruption notifications and updates on service restoration through their various communications channels.

Notwithstanding the providers’ proffered explanation and assurances, the OUR says it has taken note that subsequent to the meeting, some of the network issues have continued unabated with complaints such as customers’ inability to complete calls, the need for multiple dialling to make connections, loss of internet services and dropped calls.

The utility regulator says it is therefore continuing to explore the options that are available to incentivise providers to deal expeditiously with the issues that are causing great hardship and frustration to consumers.

This includes continuing to monitor the quality of service being provided through the scrutiny of required reports, as well as frequent meetings where both telecommunications companies will be asked to provide weekly updates on their progress in correcting or mitigating the issues as well as on any initiatives that will have significant customer impact.

Report service disruptions

The OUR is also urging customers that where their service contracts provide for rebates in the event of prolonged service disruption, they should insist on receiving them.

Any refusal to honour such obligations should be reported to the OUR.

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