At least 144,000 thousand customers on BTL's network experienced interruption of cellular and internet services yesterday from about 2 a.m. until 7:00 a.m. or later in some areas.

BTL says it was a critical system failure from within their network.

Technicians explain that it was caused by scheduled maintenance and upgrades designed to improve the 4G wireless. The problem is that this maintenance had unintended consequences and it caused major inconveniences to those customers who depend on BTL, not to mention the loss of business which happened during that countrywide interruption.

Today, the General Manager of the company's Customer Services Department sat down with the media and discussed what happened:

Dr. Dionne Miranda, GM - Customer Services - BTL
"At approximately 1:45am yesterday morning, we received our first set of calls into our call center, I am sure that you know that we run a 24 hour a day call center, where we received different messages saying that customers were unable to browse DSL, they were unable to dial out on their 2G and 4G devices, send text and at the same time receive their mobile data. It was countrywide at one period. At 6am in the morning when we issued the first release, it was a countrywide issue. In terms of our DigiCell 2G and 4G customers base, I would want to almost say that it was around 80% - 90% and we do have over 180,000 customers. In terms of our DSL customers it was fluctuating and intermittent that's it very hard to be very clear in giving you a physical number of how many people were affected. We had stabilize all services on 2G and 4G services. However, the DSL portions and I am talking countrywide, were still being affected and by 9am we started to see some level of recovery. However, when we close down the command center, at about 9:30 we started to see reoccurrence again and that put us in automatic mode where we started to pull in our international suppliers and some of our external consultants which were in town and we then started working out the issues. Again, the rationale behind all of it was from routing because of the upgrades and the maintenance that we did and because of springing into action immediately and because of having CISCO people on hand and also our consultants out of the Netherlands, we were able to bring up all services by 7pm last night."

According to Miranda, customers may have experienced additional periods of service interruption because they had some stability issues, which was ironed out late yesterday evening. But, for that 5 hours, the country was cut off from the rest of the world, save for the hard lines which were unaffected - but, apart from offices, who has those anymore?

Miranda told us that the back-up systems have been designed to prevent a disconnection from the outside world to BTL, and not from an internal system-wide glitch like this. She said that a post-mortem will be done to ensure that there is no recurrence:

Dr. Dionne Miranda, GM - Customer Services - BTL
"One of the important things that we've done in terms of cutting off from the rest of the world, whenever an incident like this occurs we follow up with a post mortem and the post mortem will determine what have we done right, what did we not do right and what can be taken for the future. I can tell you the post mortem hasn't come out yet because we've never expected an internal issue. What we've done, in terms of redundancy with the rest of the world, we've put in fiber connectivity, we have copper connectivity - we have a ring. In terms of the external world, we have the Columbus Submarine Cable - the Arcos One, which we are an investor in that, so we own that. We've actually started service with a Guatemalan company and a Mexican company, so that if the Guatemalan link goes down, the Mexican link kicks in or the Arcos Submarine Cable. None of you are aware of this but the Arcos Submarine Cable had a break in the middle of this year and went dormant and nobody knew that it was down because we then kicked in with other links. We are working continuously to ensure that we have service capability at all times. This I am sure we are going to learn from."

To address this problem, the BTL technicians worked extensive hours, some of them for 18 hours straight to restore stability to the data and internet systems.

Channel 7