SmarTone fined for service disruption
SmarTone has been fined HK$130,000 by the telecoms watchdog for a service disruption that resulted in thousands of users losing their mobile phone and internet connections for at least four hours earlier this year.
The disruption was caused by a power failure at a switchboard station in Central and Western District on April 9. Some customers also complained that SmarTone failed to post any information about it on its website throughout the day, while the customer hotline was constantly jammed.
The Communications Authority said such a power failure was a 'common and not unpredictable' risk to network operations and criticised SmarTone for not having an effective backup system.
The company was also taken to task for failing to notify the authority and its customers in a timely manner.
According to official guidelines, operators should report critical network outages - the failure of one or more switching units at a telephone exchange for more than 15 minutes - to the authority within an hour.
But on April 9, the problem occurred at 10.35am, yet the first contact between SmarTone and the Communications Authority was at 12.30pm.
The authority said the fine was 'proportionate and reasonable' in relation to the breach of SmarTone's licence conditions.
SmarTone said it respected the authority's decision and would improve its communication procedures. 'We will notify the public within 30 minutes in the event of a major service disruption through various channels,' it said.
It also said the company would enhance its backup power systems.
Meanwhile, PCCW's internet service provider, Netvigator, escaped any penalty after about 10,000 of its users were denied access to the web on April 13. The authority said the company did not breach its licence.
There are about this many mobile phone subscribers in Hong Kong, or just over 2.1 for every man, woman and child