Home
 » ISP News » 
Sponsored

UPDATE Construction Fails Cause 80 Percent of Fibre Optic Cable Breaks

Saturday, November 14th, 2015 (1:59 am) - Score 1,743

The manager of Vodafone’s fixed line network, Sean Teggart, claims that 80% of incidents involving broken fibre optic cables on their network are attributable to UK street works, while the rest can be caused by everything from shotgun wielding farmers to cable hungry rats.

Most of today’s modern communication services, both fixed line and mobile based services, are supported by high capacity fibre optic cables and these tend to be distributed in a number of different ways, such as via telegraph poles, dedicated underground cable ducts, along existing sewers or even across electricity pylons etc.

Unfortunately it’s also a frustrating fact of telecoms life that in any given week a number of these will break, which can result in anything from a handful to tens of thousands of people being left without access to their normal services.

In most cases the break is easy enough to fix, taking only a few short hours, although more significant and complex incidents (e.g. cables exposed during a large landslide) could take days or possibly even weeks to fully resolve.

Sean Teggart explains:

A fibre break can be caused by many things, but it’s most typically by what we call ‘street works’. And that’s because JCBs and fibre optic cables do not go together well! We find that whenever we get a fibre break, 80% of them will be attributable to construction work.

A big fibre break from recent memory, for instance, is one we experienced earlier this year where there was significant demolition work going on in a town centre, and our fibre cable was very close to the edge of the demolition site. In the course of tearing down the buildings the contractors dropped a huge concrete beam, which landed on the duct carrying our fibre cable.

Underground fires are another recent example. Underneath London there’s a maze of Victorian tunnels, which were built for various transport and postal systems, and lots of today’s utility companies use those tunnels to carry cabling – including us. In April this year, when another company’s cables caught fire, it caused a larger fire within the tunnel, which had a major effect on our fibre cable running through the same tunnel.”

Teggart said that they also had to deal with a wide variety of other causes, such as rats chewing through cables (this is known to be quite common and thus it helps to have fully armoured cables) and farmers who use their shotguns to shoot at birds that have come to rest on nearby cables (less common).

Apparently Vodafone experiences an incident of the above nature every week, which isn’t surprising given how many fibre optic cables they have in the ground. No doubt bigger fixed line operators, such as BTOpenreach, have to deal with an even greater number of similar issues.

Sean Teggart added:

In a more typical outage, it’ll take between four and six hours to restore things back to normal, but we can get things up and running with a temporary solution much quicker than that.

We’re investing significantly in our fibre infrastructure so that we have multiple fibre cables between locations. Our ambition is to make things much more robust, to ensure our customers are always connected, be that via broadband or mobile.”

A quick note about redundancy. If you run a business of reasonable size then it’s always wise to ensure that your Internet connectivity comes from more than one supplier, but major cable breaks could still end up affecting all of those at the same time (depending upon which cable has been broken and where).

The reason for this is because several operators may share nearby cable ducts (e.g. sewers) or related infrastructure and in other locations it might not make any kind of economic sense to dig two separate capacity supply cables from different directions to serve, for example, the same small area or a single street cabinet etc.

As such if you can afford it then businesses would be well advised to consider using more innovative redundancy, such as via Mobile infrastructure, Satellite and or Microwave / wireless. Mind you some of these are only viable for larger firms that can accommodate the additional overhead.

It’s worth pointing out that many of these problems also occur for other cable types and Openreach’s old copper lines are a good example because they’re often being targeted by thieves that rip the cable out of the ground and then attempt to sell it. Mercifully policing, protection and enforcement of this aspect has improved dramatically over the years and so it’s becoming harder to commit such crimes.

Never the less at some point it’s likely that your connection will suffer due to a cable break and when that happens then often all you can do is either wait for it to be fixed or use Mobile Broadband instead.

UPDATE 30th November 2015

Vodafone has added a new commentary piece that offers a bit of extra background information on how such cables are fixed (here).

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses

Comments are closed.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Ultrafast ISPs
  • Gigaclear £17.00
    Speed: 200Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Community Fibre £20.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £22.00
    Speed: 158Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Virgin Media £24.00
    Speed: 108Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £25.00
    Speed: 100Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £17.99
    Speed 33Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Shell Energy £19.99
    Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • NOW £20.00
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Virgin Media £20.00
    Speed 54Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £22.00
    Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. FTTP (4114)
  2. BT (3151)
  3. Politics (2117)
  4. Building Digital UK (2026)
  5. Openreach (1969)
  6. FTTC (1922)
  7. Business (1832)
  8. Mobile Broadband (1605)
  9. Statistics (1510)
  10. 4G (1378)
  11. FTTH (1371)
  12. Virgin Media (1277)
  13. Ofcom Regulation (1241)
  14. Wireless Internet (1233)
  15. Fibre Optic (1233)
  16. Vodafone (926)
  17. EE (905)
  18. 5G (898)
  19. TalkTalk (821)
  20. Sky Broadband (787)
Promotion
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
Sponsored

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact