Featured image courtesy Showtown Entertainment

On the afternoon of September 20th, Dialog suffered disruptions to its service and network coverage for less than an hour. This affected voice, data and SMS services on mobile phones – quite significant given that the company has over 11.8 million subscribers, and, as of 2016, a consolidated revenue of Rs. 86.7 billion.

The news of this broke, almost inevitably, on Twitter first.

Next, it was picked up by mainstream media outlets.

To their credit, Dialog was quick to explain that the outage was due to a power systems failure.


Screenshot from the Dialog website

Sixty minutes might not seem like a long time to be disconnected, but people did feel its impact. “Given the time, quite a large number of import or export agents would face issues with trying to coordinate with container truck drivers and banks,” Gopiharan Perinpam, Assistant Superintendent of Sri Lanka Customs, said. On a personal level, Gopiharan said he had been unable to use PickMe or Uber to travel to Katunayake for a night shift. As a result, he had had to hail a three-wheeler and then take a bus, which lost him some time.

Meanwhile, activist Mohamed Hisham said he was personally impacted, as most of his family uses mobile phones.

“We don’t have landlines as we thought there was no need to have them, given that everybody is on the move. So it was quite frustrating to have the downtime,” Hisham said.

“However, I am not blaming Dialog, given that technology platforms are supposed to have downtime. Having uninterrupted service for years, this one down time can’t be used to just reject a service; nevertheless as a corporate with the biggest profit margins and widest reach Dialog should have invested in back-up solutions which can be implemented as soon as the primary network failed,” Hisham said.

Dialog Group was a significant contributor to state revenues, remitting Rs31.7Bn to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) during the financial year ended 31st December 2016, which represented an increase of 15% YoY.

Others shared stories of minor inconveniences:

Competitor companies took advantage of the situation:

A few others said they weren’t impacted at all by the outage.

The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection has demanded that Dialog compensate their customers.

For its part, Dialog responded by waiving fees incurred on September 20th.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission whose mandate includes dealing with the public on complaints on network coverage, were unable to confirm whether they had received complaints on the outage – with some representatives saying they were unaware about the issue. The Director General was unavailable for comment at the time of writing this article.

More than anything, the outage highlighted people’s growing reliance on technology – it was mostly through social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, that people received first received confirmation of the outage – either from Dialog directly or from friends.

Those who have shifted away from the use of landline phones, as well as those relying on apps such as PickMe and Uber for transport suffered inconvenience. Many however reported no ill-effects, possibly due to the fact that the outage happened during working hours.

Those who enjoyed this article might find “Dialog Accused of not fully cooperating in Prageeth Eknaligoda case” and “The Other Side” enlightening reads.