U Mobile pledges to avoid future service disruption


  • Business
  • Thursday, 03 Nov 2011

By B.K. SIDHU

bksidhu@thestar.com.my

PETALING JAYA: While U Mobile Sdn Bhd's major service disruption on Monday raises concerns about the stability of its network, chief executive officer Dr Kaizad Heerjee has assured that plans are in p lace to avoid future recurrences.

“We acknowledge that U Mobile has let down our customers as they expect better service from us. We have to redouble our efforts to rebuild their confidence in U Mobile ,'' he told StarBiz.

He declined to say ho w much more investments was needed or how much revenue the company had lost during the disruption as the priority was to keep its users on the network.

“Our technical team is monitoring the network closely and working on stabilising the service,'' a notice on the U Mobile website said yesterday.

To compensate its over one million users, U Mobile will offer free SMS for a 24-hour period on Nov 10, Dec 10 and Jan 10. In addition, data users will get free 500MB monthly for three months starting Nov 10.

“It was an unexpected glitch that came about, and in a way, it triggered the technical systems to fall over. So basically, it took a while to recover,' ' Kaizad said.

He pointed out that “no mobile operator can guarantee there will be no outages as networks are not 100% foolproof.

However, what we need to do is to enhance our network contingency and back-up plan.”

For that, he said, investments would be made so that di sruptions would not recur.

“What we are building is the highest speed data network in Malaysia and, for that, we have been upgrading our network for a while now. The technical side is always a challenge but we have learnt from the episode and recovered quickly. We hope we will be able to rebuild customer trust and that is why I took the bold move to send a personal message to them (via Facebook and U Tube). We hope the customer appreciates that we mean it,'' Kaizad said.

He said the “small token (of free SMS and data services) can in no way compensate for the downtime they experienced but our goal is to rebuild customer confidence in U Mobile.''

The disruption occurred just before noon on Monday and, two hours later, the network was restored. However, the surge in traffic forced it down again and it took more than five hours for total restoration.

Since late last year, U Mobile had introduced its new strategi c partner China's ZTE Corp. Earlier, the company worked with Huawei and Ericsson.

Asked about the switch and whether it had anything to do with lower pricing, Kaizad said: “No. We found a strategic partner in ZTE, so pricing is not the only decision. But it is the long-term commitment that ZTE offered. We are also cooperating on products and services, network features and functionality.''

U Mobile has 1,500 base stations and, according to its website, its 2G coverage spans 98% of populated areas in the country.

Singapore Technologies Telemedia (STT) has a 33% stake in U Mobile; Tan Sri Vincent Tan's U Television Sdn Bhd has 62% and Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd 5%. STT owns StarHub, a telco in Singapore.

“We have very solid partners and each brings different capabilities and experiences to U Mobile. STT has a lot of experience in operations and management of mobile business via its StarHub unit, while the Berjaya Group (in which Tan is the controlling shareholder) has its expertise in distribution channels as well as good understanding of the local market. All this brings value to U Mobile,'' he said.

There had also been areas of cooperation between StarHub and U Mobile, he said, adding that “we have brought a lot of innovation to the market place and we are also the only celco that offers free roaming service to Singapore.

The same goes for StarHub users when they come here. It is a unique offering that has never been offered by any of the celcos.''

U Mobile has a partnership for domestic roaming with Celcom Axiata Bhd and recently inked a deal to use Maxis Bhd 3G network.

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