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UPD Fibre Break Hits Gigaclear’s Gloucestershire Fibre Optic Network

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 (9:41 am) - Score 1,179

The on-going state aid supported deployment of Gigaclear’s new 5Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband network in rural Gloucestershire (England) has suffered a blip today after their main fibre optic cable in the area was damaged, resulting in a loss of service for some locals.

Roll-out of the new Fastershire linked network, which was signed in June 2015 (here) and is funded by £3m of public investment and a further £7m of private investment from the ISP itself, began at the end of 2015. Much of the deployment has been focused on the county’s rural Cotswolds District.

Recently Gigaclear’s contractors have been spotted working on the A417, which passes between the villages of Birdlip and Stockwell that are both on the operator’s deployment path. Further out they also have teams finishing up work around the middle of Hilcot Brook (Withington). At this stage the details of today’s problem are still somewhat unclear, although Gigaclear has suggested that the problem is within the same area.

Gigaclear Statement

We are aware of problems in the Birdlip, Chedworth, Cockleford, Badgeworth and Withington areas caused by damage to a main fibre. Specialist contractors are on site and are working to repair the damage and restore the service.

It’s not known precisely when the problem began, although some customers in the Cheltenham (GL53) area reported that they were suddenly left without service at around 9pm last night and related messages to the ISP’s support department went unanswered until this morning (we note that their phone support is only open until 6pm).

Mind you it’s important to stress that major fibre breaks happen all the time across the United Kingdom and they can take anything from a few hours (most common) to several days or even weeks to resolve. Such breaks are usually caused by accidental contractor damage, although hopefully Gigaclear didn’t break their own cable (they appear to be the only contractors within the immediate area). We have requested more details.

UPDATE 11:10am

Gigaclear’s CEO, Matthew Hare, informs ISPreview.co.uk that the problem has been traced to an equipment fault within their 3rd party backhaul network. The ISP has promised to post hourly updates here: http://www.gigaclear.com/network-status/ .

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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.
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7 Responses
  1. high-fibre-diet says:

    Cant wait for this to come back online… so all the work-from-home-on-consumer-broadband crowd can jcomplain that despite taking the lowest cost package from a consumer broadband provider, this should be fully resilient service 😉

  2. Ignition says:

    I am surprised that there is no resilience on a ‘main’ fibre. Presumably this would be the same fibre backhauling businesses in the area.

    Can’t expect resilience between customers and the aggregation points, in the case of FTTP the switches/OLTs they connect to, but expecting it on the backhaul links from those is not unreasonable.

    It should be remembered of course that most LLU exchanges in the UK are daisy chained, zero resilience, and a single fibre break can and has wiped out a bunch of them, knocking people’s landline and broadband offline.

    1. back-hauled-to-the-stone-age says:

      From what I can gather Gigaclear do not build their own backhaul to join any or all of their FTTP deployments together, instead opting to take third party backhaul to some sort of aggregation node… most likely in a carrier neutral datacentre such as Telehouse.

      From the following presentation made by their CEO in 2014 they asserted that they have “No reliance on BT Infrastructure *Except Rutland” so assuming this remains true then for once the much maligned incumbent can be excluded from the potential culprits of this particular outage:


      So regardless of whether Gigaclear have opted to backhaul their Gloucestershire deployment all the way to their aggregation node(s) in somewhere like Docklands, or have daisy chained this area to their next nearest FTTP area, in the absence of their own longhaul network any outage on the backhaul used to connect these FTTP areas back into their core network is likely to have resulted on network assets owned by a major ‘National Ethernet provider’ who is not BT… which isnt a very big list 😉

      Although the underlying fibre owned may be complicated by the fact that even carriers with their own national network sometime lease or swap capacity with other operators but, regardless of who owned the fibre, if Gigaclear buy their backhaul capacity as any kind of business grade service this should come with an availability SLA from whomever they contract with.

      For any access provider to make a profit their overheads, including backhaul costs, must be lower than the revenue they receive from customers so even if their provider gives them 100% of the value of that months charges for the impacted service then for them to make the same SLA available to their customer would result in the risk of a fairly significant payout when, and not if, something goes wrong on part of the service that is outside of their control..

      Despite the fact that its probable that all of their services are sold to consumers without a ‘business grade’ SLA, or at least no opportunity to receive compensation beyond the statutory legal minimums, its probably reasonable to suggest that the even the average consumer has the perception of broadband as a utility and thus expectations of a similar level of availability as they do with their water/gas/electricity…

      So in the same way that your local electricy substation will have multiple connections to the national grid, your gas supplier will obtain the gas they deliver to you from multiple producers and your water company has the ability to source their product from one of many locations where it collected after falling from the sky, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that broadband providers will build some degree of resiliency into their network beyond the last mile.

      Circling back to outage in question, the fact that it impacted multiple ‘areas’ implies that regardless of how these were connected back to the local aggregation point there was a single point of failure in the back haul to their national aggregation point, or points, which are used to provide the onwards Internet connectivity to their broadband users.

      So regardless of physical location, or desire to avoid use of any BT infrastructure, it is always possible to obtain 100% physical diversity if your prepared to pay for it….

      Which begs the question of would an Altnet FTTP business model be viable at the pricing level Gigaclear charge if they opted to ensure that every area or local aggregation node has resilient connectivity back to a core network that free of any single point of failure such as the one which apparently cause this outage.. or simply built a backbone network ‘without cutting corners’ (as some may put it) ? 😉

  3. MikeW says:

    While the fibre break isn’t caused by Gigaclear, the lack of resilience is.

    Do we think this kind of outage should trigger automatic compensation as mooted by Ofcom?

    IMO, not providing resilience at an appropriate level is self-inflicted harm, and is an example of the kind of “best efforts” behaviour that we should desire the ISP business moves away from.

  4. Chris P says:

    Pay peanuts get less reliable service. Jo public do not understand that though and expect total uptime or compensation.
    To be fair this is the kind of thing the LLU lot moan at or blame BT for even if they are the ones at fault for not doing resilience to BT.
    If only there was some way to persuade even the smallest operator to invest in resilience in their network….

    1. FASTBOY says:

      In respect of the resiliency issue, is it a lack of long term capital investment or is it due to the project in the Cotswolds only being at 10% of roll out coverage and hence the additional nodes/POP within the total project area have not yet been reached/ plugged in? I hope the latter! As a new Gigaclear customer in The Cotswolds the outage quoted was limited to a 24hr period which is faster than a BT line/ADSL issue resolution.

  5. Food-For-Thought says:

    The question I would like answered is why there are so many incidents of cables being dug up because this seems to be the most common cause of major network failures. Surely this is an indication that the government has never actually made a long term sustainable plan for routing cables/pipes etc and probably do not even provide centralised documentation of underground pipes and cables. All I ever see is a road getting dug up time and again creating a complete mess of the roads that quickly disintegrate when the frost and ice comes and cost us the tax payer millions (though it seems that increasingly we are forced to drive on roads with huge potholes as they cannot afford to fix the roads anymore and suffer the damage to our vehicles instead).

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