Problems With Israeli Cellular Networks Not Cyber-attack, Says Pelephone

Problems with Pelephone network not due to cyber attack, company confirms, but isn't sure yet what the problem was.

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Users of the Pelephone mobile network throughout the country reported malfunctions in the service of their cellular phones on Sunday evening. Pelephone, a unit of the Bezeq telecoms group, says the problem is technical in nature and not due - despite initial suspicions - to a hostile cyber-attack.

However, as of Monday morning the company was not sure what the origin of the malfunction had been.

Some four and a half hours after the problems were first reported, Pelephone said on Sunday evening that 90 percent of the network was up and running.

People in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak, and the wider metropolitan Tel Aviv area were unable to make or receive calls, or send text messages from early evening onward.

As complaints from Gush Dan streamed in, reports of difficulties began to flow in from other parts of Israel as well. The companies data services were running, so many customers managed to communicate using in-phone e-mail services or programs like WhatsApp.

Cellular service providers piggybacking on the Pelephone network, including Rami Levy and HOT Mobile, also reported communication problems on Sunday evening.

In areas where Hot Mobile network relies totally on its own infrastructure, its users have not been experiencing problems. 

Pelephone has about three million customers, including state employees, police, doctors, ministers, heads of government departments, and more. Rami Levy's network has about 68,000 customers.

Security officials checked whether the origin of the problem was technical malfunction or cyber-attack, and ruled out the latter possibility. The problem was apparently the collapse of all the main switches that channel calls throughout the network.

The malfunction also affected the Haaretz news desk, as most Haaretz reporters receive mobile service from Pelephone.

Two years ago, in December 2010, the Cellcom company network fell for 12 hours, leaving more than a million customers with no reception. Like the Pelephone malfunction on Sunday, then customers were unable to send SMS or calls. Upon investigation, Cellcom discovered that the problem was not in the companies antennas, but at the heart of the network.  

What brought down Pelephone's network yesterday? Jury's out.Credit: Bloomberg
Israeli soldiers talk on cellphones.Credit: Nir Kafri

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