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Minister criticizes KDDI's handling of network disruption

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yasushi Kaneko speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on July 5, 2022. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's communications minister on Tuesday criticized the handling of network disruption suffered by KDDI Corp. that affected up to 40 million mobile connections, saying the company failed to provide sufficient information to customers in a timely manner.

    The provider of the "au" mobile phone service "has not fulfilled its responsibility as a telecommunications operator," with some customers still unable to make voice calls after KDDI said it had ended restoration work Sunday, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yasushi Kaneko told reporters.

    The disruption, which commenced around 1:35 a.m. Saturday, has affected up to 39.15 million mobile connections and disrupted banking systems, the transmission of weather data, parcel deliveries and network-connected cars, with services yet to be completely restored.

    Taking into account the unprecedented impact of the outage, the government will set up an expert panel to compile measures to prevent a recurrence, Kaneko said.

    Referring to the disruption of emergency calls, the minister said, "It is extremely regrettable that it has got to the point of potentially threatening people's lives and we are taking the situation seriously."

    Japan's second-largest mobile carrier by subscribers said Monday afternoon that its voice call and data communication services had almost been restored nationwide, but it stopped short of announcing the problems are solved, saying it still needs time to check its network.

    The company said it will determine if its network is fully back in service by Tuesday evening.

    The Japan Meteorological Agency demanded KDDI come up with measures to prevent a similar incident after some data distributions from its regional weather observation system were suspended, land minister Tetsuo Saito told reporters Tuesday.

    The system observes and distributes temperature and precipitation data. Of the around 1,300 observation stations nationwide, some 550 had stopped transmitting data due to the outage, Saito said, adding the data is now being sent as normal.

    "Real-time observation data from the system is important for local people and organizations involved in disaster prevention," the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister said.

    Health minister Shigeyuki Goto has requested the country's 47 prefectures make efforts to avoid any impact on medical services in case a similar situation repeats, he told reporters Tuesday.

    Some municipalities have reported that medical facilities were unable to communicate with on-call doctors and drivers who were delivering pulse oximeters to coronavirus patients because of the outage, he said.

    "To ensure there is no serious interference to medical and nursing-care services, we will work with prefectural governments to secure a stable system from normal times," Goto said.

    The network failure occurred when a router for voice calls was replaced during regular maintenance, with repair work triggering a concentration of traffic that led the company to reduce user access.

    During that time, the carrier experienced a cascade of technical problems that further prolonged the connection difficulties.

    The latest service outage follows a system failure at NTT Docomo Inc., Japan's largest mobile carrier, in October last year that lasted around 29 hours and affected at least 12.9 million users.

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