FILE PHOTO: People walk past a store of the French telecoms operator Orange in Paris, France, February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo
June 4, 2021
By Mathieu Rosemain, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Matthieu Protard
PARIS (Reuters) -Orange boss Stephane Richard came under political pressure on Thursday after a network outage at France’s biggest telecoms firm prevented emergency calls for several hours.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “very concerned” by the incident, while health minister Olivier Véran said it was too soon to say whether there was any link between the outage and three to four deaths recorded during the period.
The disruption to emergency phone services, which began on Wednesday afternoon, eased overnight and was entirely fixed in the course of the day.
“The situation is now totally back to normal again. All traffic on the emergency numbers is normal on the whole national territory,” Richard told RTL radio, reiterating his apologies to those affected.
He had earlier been summoned by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who called the glitch “serious and unacceptable.”
The outage comes a day after a French prosecutor told judges of the Paris appeals court that Richard should face three years in jail for his alleged involvement in a disputed compensation payment made by the state in 2008.
Orange’s shares ended down by 0.1% at 10.55 euros, faring better than France’s CAC 40, which lost 0.21%.
Richard said the outage was caused nor by an attack neither by a malicious act, also adding it couldn’t be linked to a human error nor to a maintenance issue.
“It’s a software failure (…) a genuine, extremely rare technical glitch,” Richard said, stressing the whole system had a very high level of security.
That software failure occurred in critical network equipment responsible for routing all incoming calls from landline or cell phones to emergency numbers.
Orange’s boss said that for a yet unknown reason, all six redundant sites on which the infrastructure relies broke down at the same time.
The minister for digital affairs, Cedric O, said the state, which is Orange’s biggest shareholder, will launch an investigation into the causes of the outage, which Orange said sporadically hit calls to emergency services in several regions.
Orange France chief Fabienne Dulac said that 20% of calls to emergency services failed on average, prompting French authorities to hastily put in place alternative emergency numbers that they publicized on social media.
Some calls to fixed lines, beyond the ones made to emergency calls, had also been affected by the outage, French rivals SFR and Bouygues Telecom said on Twitter.
François Braun, the president of Samu-Urgences, the central organization for emergency medical services, told news channel BFM TV that a third of the calls made to his services failed.
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Matthieu Protard;Additional reporting by Geert de Clercq Editing by Jason Neely, Christina Fincher and Alexander Smith)