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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who ya gonna call when the phones go dead?

Mark Bridge writes:

This week there’s a government exercise taking place in London. A number of civil servants and private sector employees are simulating the failure of the UK’s fixed-line telephone network. Called White Noise, it imagines a scenario where telephone exchanges are destroyed by a giant subterranean monster that pulls really hard on all those underground cables.

Alright, I’ve made that last bit up, but 'White Noise' is real. The UK’s fixed-line network could be attacked or disrupted – and the government is right to make sure we’re ready for it.

Except… apparently mobile phones and data connections will still work in this scenario.

Phew. Thank goodness for that.

Now, I’m not privy to the inner workings of White Noise, so I’m having to trust the stuff I read online. (Mind you, at least I can read it online – because my mobile phone and my data connection still work).

Never mind that mobile calls are – at least partly – routed by BT over fixed lines. In fact, completely disrupting the fixed-line network without disrupting mobiles would be hard work.

Never mind that mobile networks can’t really cope with a glut of text messages on New Year’s Eve or thirty BlackBerry users simultaneously receiving email in the same room.

And never mind that more and more people rely on mobiles, not fixed lines.

As I said, it’s a scenario worth investigating. But when White Noise is finished, I hope someone will also look at the potential failure of the UK’s internet hubs – and the failure of the UK’s mobile networks.

Which got me thinking. Following Vodafone’s network problems this morning, O2’s network problems a few months ago and recent hassles for T-Mobile customers in the USA, I wondered what plans our mobile networks had for telling us if they ever failed. After all, they can't text or call. So with most networks offering dedicated shortcodes for customer service numbers, it’s probably worth also storing their email address and fixed-line number in your mobile’s memory… or better still, writing it on a piece of paper.

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Author: The Fonecast
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