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SoftBank's mobile outage hits swath of Japanese businesses

Four-hour network disruption hampers flights, train trips and parcel deliveries

SoftBank suffered service interruptions Thursday lasting more than four hours.

TOKYO -- SoftBank's mobile service outage Thursday across much of Japan disrupted operations ranging from flights and trains to amusement parks and logistics companies, illustrating both corporate and consumer dependence on wireless communications networks.

SoftBank phones lost signals at 1:39 p.m., affecting voice and data communication for more than four hours before connections were restored at 6:04 p.m. The outage hit the mobile unit of SoftBank Group ahead of its initial public offering on Dec. 19, which is expected to be one of the largest ever worldwide.

Budget carrier Jetstar Japan delayed seven flights at Narita Airport near Tokyo by as much as 15 minutes. The portable devices used to check plane tickets at the gates go through SoftBank's networks, but the airline was forced to make do with manual checks.

East Japan Railway experienced problems with the transit app Mobile Suica. Riders were unable to purchase shinkansen tickets or first-class seating on conventional trains.

Logistics companies also were affected. At Sagawa Express, part of SG Holdings, drivers could not access collection requests or redelivery information on mobile devices. Drivers were unable to make voice calls on cellphones.

Tokyo Disney Resort, operated by Oriental Land, encountered customers who were unable to display electronic tickets on their smartphones.

The SoftBank service interruptions were linked to software made by Swedish telecom company Ericsson. SoftBank said Thursday that software troubles occurred at Ericsson switching facilities in Tokyo and Osaka.

The sharing economy was not immune. Some vehicles offered by Careco, the car-sharing service established by Mitsui Fudosan Realty, were rendered unusable. Users lock and unlock the vehicles with smartphones, but the communication devices inside the autos endured interruptions.

Ericsson notified SoftBank that similar troubles occurred around the same time in 11 countries. SoftBank said that connections were restored by reverting to older software and that the two companies will jointly take measures to prevent any similar problem in the future.

SoftBank was similarly hit with widespread service interruptions in February due to glitches with landline equipment. Calls between cellphones and landline phones could not connect, affecting 670,000 people.

SoftBank must report the details of the service troubles to Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications as the accident lasted more than two hours and affected over 30,000 people. The carrier had 40.43 million mobile subscribers at the end of September.

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