SoftBank Suffers "Grave" 4-Hour Mobile Service Outage; Chaos Ensues

Offering a glimpse of the chaos that will be unleashed as humans become even more dependent on technology to run every aspect of our society during our increasingly tech dependent future (just imagine the havoc that could be wrought by a strategic EMP attack) the Japanese economy was briefly plunged into chaos on Thursday when Softbank mobile experienced a four-hour outage, cutting off data service to thousands of companies and millions of phones, according to Nikkei Asian Review

The outage, which occurred less than two weeks before the long-anticipated IPO of Softbank's mobile unit, caused delayed flights and train departures. Even Tokyo Disney Resorts briefly stopped admitting customers when its check-in system was immobilized.

SoftBank phones lost service at 1:39 pm, severing voice and data communication for more than four hours before service was restored at 6:04 pm.

The outage in Japan was part of a broader disruption in service that also affected a mobile carrier in the UK, along with telecoms networks in nine other countries. The outages have been blamed on equipment malfunctions on systems manufactured by Ericcson, the Swedish telecoms giant, according to the Financial Times.


The outage was so disruptive, Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the Japanese government had classified it as a "grave incident." The timing could not have been worse: Softbank Mobile's IPO is expected to be the largest in Japanese history; the telecoms giant is hoping to raise some $23 billion. What's worse: Softbank Mobile shares have been heavily pitched toward Japanese retail investors.

Here's a roundup of some of the services that were temporarily shuttered because of the service outage (text courtesy of Nikkei Asian Review):

  • Budget carrier Jetstar Japan delayed seven flights at Narita Airport near Tokyo by as much as 15 minutes. The portable devices used to check plane tickets at the gates go through SoftBank's networks, but the airline was forced to make do with manual checks.
  • East Japan Railway experienced problems with the transit app Mobile Suica. Riders were unable to purchase shinkansen tickets or first-class seating on conventional trains.
  • At logistics company Sagawa Express, part of SG Holdings, drivers could not access collection requests or redelivery information on mobile devices. Drivers were unable to make voice calls on cellphones.
  • Tokyo Disney Resort, operated by Oriental Land, encountered customers who were unable to display electronic tickets on their smartphones.
  • The sharing economy was not immune. Some vehicles offered by Careco, the car-sharing service established by Mitsui Fudosan Realty, were rendered unusable. Users lock and unlock the vehicles with smartphones, but the communication devices inside the autos endured interruptions.

SoftBank, which has 40 million mobile customers, has endured several disruptions to its mobile service in the past, including another serious incident in February of this year. Tokyo-listed shares of the telecom conglomerate fell 6% on news of the outage.