On December 22nd, Skype suffered major downtime, which affected users all over the world and prevented them from making any calls. The company blamed a failure of many “supernodes” which route call traffic.
Most people I know who were affected felt inconvenienced, but took it in stride and picked up a “conventional” phone (fixed or mobile) to make the calls they needed to make.
This reaction is interesting though. Imagine if people’s “conventional” phones or their broadband failed to work for a few hours. Consider what the reaction might have been if the Skype problem had been caused by some “traditional” operators having problems applying policy control on their networks. In either case, there would have been major furor.
Essentially, it seems to me that we apply different standards to “conventional” phone communications and to “Internet” services. In large part, that is probably due to the cost of using the service—after all, Skype calls are largely free or extremely cheap.
This underlines the challenge many “conventional” operators face. People expect to pay very little for their services, but expect them to be there when all else fails. Furthermore, operators have a duty of reliability, not least to handle emergency calls.
There is no secret though: quality and reliability rarely come free. This is something we see not only in telecoms, but also in other industries, such as airlines or indeed OSS software! Often, customers only find that out when things go wrong.