Key part foiled Cable & Wireless

The failure of a key piece of equipment caused the disruption to Cable & Wireless’ service on Tuesday.

Chief Operating Officer Ian Tibbetts apologised to customers in a statement issued on Wednesday.

‘The interruption in service was caused by an unforeseen failure of the master clock which provides synchronization to the entire system,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘This in turn then resulted in sequential failures.’

Services affected included mobile, landline, international, ADSL internet and Blackberry. Access to 411, 611, 811 and 911 were also affected.

‘Our team worked on the problem throughout the morning and most lines of business were restored by around 1pm, with the exception of EDGE and access to 811 and 411,’ Mr. Tibbetts said, adding that all systems were functional by Tuesday evening.

Mr. Tibbetts called the particular form of failure ‘a very rare occurrence for Cable & Wireless.’

‘We would like to assure you that a thorough review is being conducted and proper measures are being taken to avoid a reoccurrence of this event in the future,’ he said.

Police and other emergency services also had their communications hindered by the service interruption.

‘During the time of the outages we were in frequent communication with local agencies such as 911 emergency services to mitigate the impact of the situation,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ennis said he knew of no cases where someone had tried to contact the police or emergency services and could not.

‘I’m very please with how this situation worked out,’ he said. ‘There were no serious problems and no reports that our operations were seriously impacted in any way.’

Mr. Ennis said the RCIPS had contingencies in place in the event of a loss in communications. Those contingencies include using alternate telephone numbers, and communicating with members of the business community through the internet, he said.

‘We use communication by radio as well.’

The RCIPS established many of the communications contingencies as part of its reformed disaster management plan after Hurricane Ivan hit Cayman in September 2004. Mr. Ennis said the RCIPS was already conducting reviews of its disaster response plan in advance of the next hurricane season.

Tuesday’s communications disruption will allow the RCIPS to look at ways to improve that plan.

‘Even though [the disruption] wasn’t the worst case scenario, it’s an opportunity to reassess our contingencies,’ he said.

The communication disruption also affected the private sector, from businesses in the financial sector to retail outlets.

John Rea, managing director of the Island Companies duty free stores, said his company was hard hit on a day when there were five cruise ships in port.

‘It floored us yesterday because we weren’t expecting it,’ he said.

Mr. Rea said his company probably lost tens of thousands of dollars in sales because it could not use the machines to verify credit card charges.

‘We encouraged our people to use their best judgment, but if there was any doubt, we wouldn’t follow through [with the sale],’ he said. Since the cruise ships are only in port for the day, buyers could not simply return some other time to make their purchase.

Mr. Rea said communication disruptions like the one Tuesday occur so rarely that it probably did not make economic sense to invest in any back-up systems, even if there were one that worked.

If there was a silver lining in Tuesday’s trouble, Mr. Rea found it.

‘At least [the cause for the disruption] was better than a hurricane,’ he said.

Mr. Tibbetts said Cable & Wireless remained committed to providing ‘robust, leading edge telecommunications.’

‘As we have always done in the past, we will continue to invest significantly in our staff, our network, our services and our customers,’ he said. ‘We at Cable & Wireless value your business and again apologise for the inconvenience this interruption caused.’

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