For the second time in the past few months, millions of customers were left today with limited services on their smartphones. Swathes of users on the O2 phone network across the country found their 4G network services to be disconnected, meaning that many were left without any mobile internet coverage. 

Around 32 million affected customers

Today's outage of the 4G services on O2's network represents a huge embarassment for the company, as they have announced that data services are unlikely to be 'fully restored' until tomorrow (Friday) morning. In addition to their own services, O2 also provide network coverage for customers of Tesco, Giffgaff and Sky, as well as Lycamobile. This means that the total number of customers affected by the outage could be as high as around 32 million. 

It is believed that the outage is partly due to decommissioned Ericsson software, with the Chief Executive of O2 stating, "I want to let our customers know how sorry I am for the impact our network data issue has had on them, and reassure them that our teams, together with Ericsson, are doing everything we can. We will continue to work with Ericsson, through the night, who have assured us that a full service will be restored for customers by the morning."

A spokesman for O2 originally advised that the company was aware of the issues affecting customers and their data, as well as pointing out that technical teams were investigating. However, it was later that the truth behind the issue became apparent, when the spokesman later added that 'One of our third party suppliers has identified a software issue in their system." Customers across the UK vented their frustrations on social media as usual, with Twitter being the main platform that saw complaints arising. Some customers highlighted how losing network coverage was becoming a regular problem. 

Indeed, this isn't the first time that O2 has experienced a network outage. Earler this year on October 4th, another network problem resulted in people across the country being left unable to make or receive any calls. We reported on this the following day. 

The cause of the outage

Ericsson has also since confirmed that an expired software security certificate was responsible for the chaos. Though you might not hear the brand 'Ericsson' mentioned as often as you used to, the Swedish equipment manufacturer is still in operation, providing a large amount of the world's cellular network hardware and software.

"The faulty software that has caused these issues is being decommissioned and we apologize not only to our customers but also to their customers."

Many Twitter users raised compensation in their complaints, but the rules around compensation for network outages such as these are determined by the regulator for the communications industry, Ofcom. They can award compensation to customers for a range of network problems affecting mobile phone services, though monetary compensation is typically awarded on a smaller scale. For example, problems persisting over a longer period of time for smaller subsets of users. It's unlikely that they'd recommend monetary remuneration for such a brief outage affecting a wide array of customers, but you could always try your luck with the network's customer service team.