Comms watchdog to probe errors that left Brits unable to make emergency calls

Police reported backlog of 999 calls after unspecified technical error

Britain's communications watchdog is investigating former state telco BT over a "UK-wide disruption" that prevented some calls connecting with emergency services on 25 June.

The technical glitches at the telecoms operator first showed up on Sunday morning at 0830 local time, and the dominant telco was forced to move to a backup system around 90 minutes later. BT was able to see incoming calls to 999, the UK's emergency services number, and re-routed them to the backup solution but it admitted there was a window of time when calls could not get through.

Upwards of 50 regions and counties flagged up the issue, and police, fire and ambulance services asked members of the public to call 101 (typically for non-emergencies) and local numbers.

Things were back to normal by the evening but emergency services teams reported a backlog of calls from the morning.

Ofcom said today that its investigation will try to set out the "facts surrounding the incident" and ascertain if the watchdog has reasonable grounds to think BT failed to meet regulatory obligations.

"Our rules require BT and other providers to take all the necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organizations as part of anti call services offered. They also require providers to take all necessary measures to ensure the fullest possible availability of calls and internet in the event of catastrophic network breakdown or in cases of force majeure."

"Separately, providers are required to take appropriate and proportionate measures to identify and reduce the risks of, and prepare for the occurrence of, anything that compromises the availability, performance, or functionality of their network or service.

"Providers are also required to take appropriate and proportionate measures to prevent adverse effects arising from any such compromise. Where there is an adverse effect on the network or service, the provider must take appropriate and proportionate measures to remedy or mitigate that effect."

On Sunday afternoon, local time, the Metropolitan Police, who cover the Greater London area, said the technical fault "could mean that we don't get to someone in danger in time." Others impacted included Police Scotland, South Wales Police, and the force in Greater Manchester.

BT is itself investigating what caused the technical error and intends to reveal those findings to the government, Ofcom and emergency services by tomorrow.

"This will examine the technical aspects of what triggered Sunday's incident, the process of moving over to the backup system, and the timings of communications to the emergency services, Ofcom and the government," it said. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like