Recent evidence suggests that updates, upgrades and new deployments of HLRs (home location registers), HSSs (home subscriber servers -- like a HLR on steroids) and unifying subscriber databases can cause major service availability problems that cost money, affect credibility and potentially be the catalyst for churn.
And these aren't problems that can be solved by adding capacity to access, backhaul or core networks -- this isn't about having too many customers on the network or trying to manage too much data traffic: These are Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) failures often caused by software (rather than network infrastructure hardware) issues that can creep up on a network operations team.
Ironically, the software problems are often linked to the introduction of new systems or software version upgrades that are designed to help the service provider improve their customer experience management capabilities. But as we all know, IT systems, whether large or small, are delicate.
Here are a few of the most notable SPIT system mishaps that led to major mobile service outages, most of which were related to subscriber data system problems:
The good news is that there isn't a major danger of a service outage every time subscriber database software needs to be updated. "Regular HLR software upgrades happen all the time and they shouldn't be the cause of any problems," says Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Jim Hodges. "The major issues tend to come when there is a hardware upgrade or an operator is moving from a HLR to a HSS, or sometimes when there are a lot of new features in a software upgrade."
Those sorts of major upgrades are likely to become more commonplace as operators upgrade their packet core and subscriber data systems capabilities to support LTE services, so it's a safe bet that further reports of major mobile service outages will reach us during the next few years.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading