On July 8th, 2022, Rogers customers woke up to a communications nightmare.
Wireless and wireline customers lost access to services and couldn’t make phone calls, send texts, or use the internet.
Brands using Rogers services, like TekSavvy, were also impacted, along with access to emergency services. Businesses couldn’t accept debit transactions through Interac (which also used Rogers network), subjecting some only to accept cash.
The cause? A maintenance update led routers to malfunction. But even a year on, a detailed picture has yet to be presented. While Rogers did make filings with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a lot of the detail was redacted under privacy concerns, shielding the true impact of the outage from public view.
It took 24 hours for Rogers to restore services to the “vast majority” of customers, while others had to wait much longer. Rogers offered five days’ worth of credit to more than 13 million customers. The company vowed to separate wireless and wireline traffic to prevent a repeat.
The outage served as a small shifting point in the way Canadians used telecom services. Innovation, Science, and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne directed major telecom providers to agree on emergency roaming, mutual assistance and a communications protocol in the event of future outages. More than a dozen companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Businesses also made steps to change things. According to research Cradlepoint released in May, 74 percent of organizations in Canada made changes in the past six months to ensure their businesses won’t suffer from a major outage. A further 92 percent of surveyed businesses believed good connectivity would help them deal with unexpected changes. The figures are based on 500 responses collected from various businesses.
Accessing such connectivity can sometimes be a challenge. One way to ensure this is possible is through network diversity, such as having a wireless connection through a different provider. Cradlepoint suggests businesses consider adding a second connection through LTE or 5G.
But there are a couple of important things for businesses and individuals to keep in mind when they want to diversify. The biggest is to ensure providers function independently. This was a problem during the Rogers July 8th outage, as several of the impacted providers used Rogers’ services.
Incentives can also make it harder. While they may offer a great deal or perks, they often require customers to bundle services. A good idea in theory, especially for a country known for paying some of the highest telecom prices in the G7, the positives end when an outage impacting all services occurs.
“Customers rely on our networks every day and we are focused on delivering the highest level of network resiliency for Canadians. Since last summer, we completed a full review of our network to optimize resiliency and have implemented a number of safeguards,” a Rogers spokesperson told MobileSyrup.
“We have also introduced advanced AI technology to strengthen predictive simulation capabilities and are working with Cisco to be the first Canadian operator to separate our IP core for wireless and wireline services, as well as investing $20 billion over five years in our networks.”
While not at the same scale, outages have continued to impact Canadians. Rogers customers in central Ontario experienced an outage in May. Bell customers in Ontario also experienced outrages, including in Kingston and Brantford.
Rogers remains a leading telecom provider in Canada.
Updated July 7th, 2023, at 12:42pm ET: The article has been updated to reflect the time Rogers says it took them to restore services for most customers.
Updated July 7th, 2023, at 2:16pm ET: The article has been updated with a statement from Rogers.