Rogers Communications Inc. was unable to switch customers to competing providers during the unprecedented service outage earlier this month, despite offers of help from Bell and Telus, the company said in a document released late Friday.
The telecoms giant was also unable to shut down its radio access network, which would have automatically connected customers to another provider for emergency calls, Rogers said in a filing with the Canadian Radio-TV and Telecoms Commission.
The new details offer a glimpse of the multiple options Rogers was considering during the blanket outage that crippled mobile, landline and internet service for millions of customers across Canada on July 8.
It also shows how the widespread outage across the network limited its ability to respond with interim solutions while service was restored.
As a result, during the service disruption, Rogers was unable to route most 911 calls or transmit four emergency calls.
Although competitors offered support during the outage, the company said it was unable to switch customers to a competing provider.
This would have required access to parts of the system that were down during the outage.
Competing networks, Rogers said in his filings, also would not have been able to handle the sudden incremental volume of wireless subscribers, which the company put at more than 10 million.
The associated increase in voice and data traffic could have hampered operations in the networks of other operators, it said.
Meanwhile, Rogers considered shutting down its wireless access network during the outage, which would have automatically connected customers to another provider for 911 calls.
But once again, the company said the outage that brought down its core system made such a shutdown impossible.
In addition, shutting down the radio access network would have prolonged the outage because it would have taken several hours to recover after the network was restored, Rogers said.
“Although it was considered many times during the day, shutting down the (radio access network) just wasn’t a solution,” Rogers said in his filing with the CRTC.
“The best and quickest way to restore 911 was to restore the network itself.”
As a result, Rogers said its radio access network remained operational, preventing many customer phones from automatically attempting to connect elsewhere.
Cellular customers can remove the SIM card from their device at any time and then make an emergency call. The handset will automatically connect to the strongest signal for emergency calls, Rogers said.
Although the number of failed 911 calls is unknown, the company said it was able to route “thousands” during its network’s intermittent service. Some Rogers customers were able to make emergency calls over the Bell or Telus network.
Much of the specific information Rogers submitted to the CRTC has been redacted from the document for security and competitive reasons.
Rogers also said four emergency alerts, all issued in Saskatchewan, did not reach customers during the outage.
It said one RCMP warning referred to a dangerous person, while three were tornado warnings issued by Environment Canada.
Rogers, Bell and Telus are currently discussing solutions to potential future outages, which are expected to be included in a report to Ottawa this fall.
Rogers came under intense scrutiny from customers and the Canadian government following the ordeal, which also affected businesses and the Interac debit system.
Chief Executive Tony Staffieri has pledged to improve the resilience of the company’s mobile and internet networks.
Company officials are due to appear before the House of Commons Industry Committee on Monday to further discuss the outage.
The committee held an emergency meeting on July 15 and voted unanimously to open an investigation into the outage.
The committee will seek answers about the cause of the outage, its overall impact, and best practices to avoid similar situations in the future and to better communicate with the public in the event of such emergencies.
After the outage, Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne directed Canada’s major telecoms companies to reach agreements on mutual support during outages and a communication protocol to better inform Canadians in emergencies.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 23, 2022
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