Infrastructure SNAFU results in French public being unable to contact emergency services

Mobile provider Orange fingers 'technical issue' on a router


A technical issue with French mobile provider Orange, fixed early this morning, resulted in members of the public being temporarily unable to contact the emergency services.

At least one man is believed to have died during the outage, though a link cannot be confirmed, according to France's Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin.

The man, living in the Morbihan region in the northwest of France, died from an unspecified heart condition.

According to Orange, the issue emerged at 6pm on Wednesday night and was later resolved at midnight. Reporting from France Bleu claimed issues persisted in other parts of the country, including Brittany and Alsace.

The issue also had the effect of disconnecting calls already in progress, according to France24.

Orange has blamed the incident on an unspecified “technical issue” on a router, and discounted the possibility the outage was the result of a bad actor, or a maintenance attempt gone awry.

Although it reportedly had six redundant failsafe systems that could take over in the case of an outage, these failed to spring into action. It is not clear why.

Orange has the responsibility of routing emergency calls throughout France, in part due to its history as a state-owned provider. As a result, customers of other networks, including SFR and Bouygues Telecom, reported issues contacting the emergency services.

As a temporary fix, the French government issued geographic numbers for each of the regional services. These 10-digit numbers were unique for each location, and lacked the memorability of the usual system. Those in Paris, for example, had to dial 01 80 98 61 18.

Healthcare, police, and fire services can be reached by dialling 15, 17, and 18 respectively. These are in addition to the standard 112 number, which is used across Europe.

Speaking to reporters, Emmanuel Macron said he was “very concerned” about the incident.

The French government — which holds a 23 per cent share in Orange — has started an investigation into the incident, according to Darmanin.

In a statement, Orange CEO Stéphane Richard expressed the company’s “warmest apologies” to those affected.

The Register has asked Orange for comment. ®

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