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25 June 2020 - Our network

KPN's response to the investigation into national telephone outage and 112 inaccessibility in 2019

  • KPN acknowledges conclusions of Radiocommunications Agency investigation and adopts all the recommendations
  • On June 24, 2019 software error in routing KPN system and a concurrence of events resulted in a nationwide telephone failure whereby 112 become unavailable
  • KPN has taken measures to improve the robustness of the system and to prevent the failure from happening again

Rotterdam, June 25, 2020 – Today the Security and Justice Inspectorate is publishing several investigations of the causes and consequences of the unavailability of the emergency number 112 on June 24, 2019. In one of those reports, the Radiocommunications Agency looks specifically at the extent to which KPN met all the statutory and technical obligations. KPN acknowledges the conclusions of the Radiocommunications Agency and adopts all the recommendations.

“The availability of 112 is a top priority,” says Joost Farwerck, KPN CEO. “As a result of a software error and an unfortunate concurrence of events, our telephone network failed and 112 was unavailable for more than three hours. The fact that the Radiocommunications Agency has concluded that KPN met its statutory duty of care does not detract from this. We regret that this was able to happen; the Netherlands must be able to rely at all times on a vital service like 112. We take this very seriously and have instituted measures to ensure that it does not happen again. We are also taking the recommendations of the Radiocommunications Agency on board, to ensure that a failure such as this one last year cannot happen again.”

What happened?
On Monday June 24, 2019 from 3.34 pm to 6.52 pm, there was a telephone failure at KPN which caused the emergency number 112 to be unavailable. The failure was caused by an undetected error in the software of our routing platform, the system which forwards incoming phone calls, including those to 112, to the right person.

The routing platform for the telephone service has quadruple redundancy. In the unfortunate event that one of the platforms fails, the other platforms take it over. Every system has sufficient capacity to be able to pass all the calls through. Because of a software error and a concurrence of events, and despite all the precautionary measures, the four systems failed that day at virtually the same time. The systems became ‘full’, as it were, because the software mistakenly generated a very large number of error messages. This prevented the routing platform from passing phone calls through. This resulted in a nationwide telephone failure whereby 112 become unavailable, according to the investigations of both KPN and the Radiocommunications Agency.

At the same time, a malfunction of the NL-Alert functionality occurred at KPN on 4G (not on 2G and 3G). Consequently, the NL-Alert messages did not reach KPN’s 4G users during the telephone failure. This was unconnected to the problems of the routing platform, but this failure lasted longer because initially all attention was focused on correcting the telephone failure.

What measures has KPN taken?
KPN has taken both short and longer-term measures to solve the disruption and to ensure that it does not happen again. Immediately after the telephone failure occurred, KPN switched to the highest level of crisis management and extra monitoring. Subsequently, KPN hired an independent specialist to investigate the incidents. KPN has given this report to the government.

On the basis of the findings and recommendations of this report, since August 2019 additional measures to further improve the robustness of the telephony platform have been implemented. In that context a modification has been made so that 112 calls get extra priority in terms of the routing of the telephone traffic, and various processes have been tightened up. New software installed in the routing platform ensures that phone calls are always put through, even if the routing system is unavailable. Thanks to these measures a failure of the telephony platform such as happened last year can never be repeated.

Paul Slot3
Paul Slot, Director of Networks at KPN