10 - Hello? Are you there?

Unsichtbares Akkordeon

It should have been routine, but suddenly nobody could talk to anyone else.


In 2009, T-Mobile was the largest mobile network provider in Germany with over 40 million customers. Nevertheless, on April 21st a service disruption occurred at around 4 p.m., which was to go down as the biggest in history. In one fell swoop, millions of customers were suddenly unable to connect to the network. Calls could not be connected, nor could SMS be sent. The reason for this was a simultaneous failure of all three home location registers. Together, these three servers form a distributed database and are a central component of every mobile network. Normally, the network could still function as long as only one of the three servers is still active. But how did all three servers suddenly crash?

The answer was made public in the press a few days later. A faulty software update was installed on all three servers at the same time. Because of this, the servers could not support each other because they were struggling with the same problem. It was only at around 8 p.m. of the same day that the software update was cleaned up and a large part of the network was restored to operation.

Since new software can sometimes react unexpectedly, it should never be installed on all critical points of a system at the same time. A step-by-step procedure is recommended, ideally following a test run in a test environment.