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UPDATE2 Major Cable Break Hits Broadband ISPs in South West England

Friday, September 2nd, 2016 (7:55 am) - Score 2,193
south_west_england_outage

A number of ISPs (e.g. Sky Broadband and Gigaclear) in big parts of South West England are currently being affected after a major (trunk) fibre optic cable was damaged in an unspecified incident, which has cut Internet and phone services around parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

The incident itself began just after 9am yesterday morning (1st September) and is continuing to leave many people disconnected today. Major breaks like this do happen from time to time and they’re usually caused by accidents, such as third-party contractors ramming their diggers into an incorrect patch of ground.

The cable in question is used to supply capacity for a number of key networks and as a result the disruption is being felt far and wide.

Sky Status Update (10:11pm [1st Sept])

We understand from our on-site engineers that the problem has been caused by a fibre-cable break. Due to the complexities of the restorative works, it is likely to take some time to restore service. We’ll provide an update on progress in the morning. We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Gigaclear Status Update (9pm [1st Sept])

We are aware of a major issue with our service. We have identified the issue as a failure of a major circuit in one of our network providers’ system, affecting many service providers not just Gigaclear. Engineers have identified the location of the issue, and anticipate restoration overnight or tomorrow morning, but we cannot predict exactly when. Gigaclear apologises for any inconvenience this has caused.

Unfortunately complex core network breaks are notorious for taking several hours and sometimes even days to resolve, which is partly because they often form part of a bigger cable cluster in multiple ducts.

Related networks usually have some redundancy and as a result the incident won’t be affecting 100% of connections within the given area, making its impact more sporadic. Never the less there are plenty of complaints floating around, although Sky did say last night that they were in the “final stages” of getting the problem resolved. We have yet to see another update.

Just to give you some idea of how messy this can become, here’s what a similar cable break looked like when it occurred last month.

sky_fibre_optic_break

UPDATE 8:40am

Sky has just tweeted that “all customers should now be able to call and go online” again and Gigaclear did the same, although this was followed by another rather different message from Sky.

UPDATE 10:26am

Sky may have spoken too soon, with both the ISP and some of its customers acknowledging that connectivity in parts of the same area has once again fallen off-line. Meanwhile the Service Status page claims that there are no problems.

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Mark Jackson
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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22 Responses
  1. Avatar Food-For-Thought

    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).

    • It would be easy to say that there are so many incidents because most of the cables run near to where road works, buildings and other developments typically occur. Errors on maps, out-of-date information, general negligence.. all of this happens quite a lot.

      Strictly speaking it’s not the government’s fault as infrastructure providers and construction firms must take most of the responsibility, although certainly there should be room for better standards and mapping. Another issue is that some data is considered commercially confidential, thus you can’t simply get a public map for everything.

      We’ve tried to cover this issue in more detail before, but it’s difficult because infrastructure providers and construction firms don’t like to talk about such things in detail (even those most affected can also make similar mistakes themselves).

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Planned roadworks will see the utilities marking the ground in different colours.

  2. Avatar finaldest

    I am in Swindon and I can confirm that the net is still down. I had planned 2 days off work to relax and do some gaming and those plans have now been flushed down the toilet.

    When I log into “my sky” the service status page shows that all is well yet reports from others mentioned it was back on briefly and then service was lost again.

    This is the 3rd cable/fiber break now on the FTTC network in recent weeks, Do they not have any redundancy in their network?.

    I am going to contact VM and switch mys Sky bb service to them and also look for a cheap redundancy service as a backup.

    I am done with sky and fttc in general.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Surely it’s not the FTTC network, whatever that is. It’s in Sky’s network after the FTTC interconnect.

    • Avatar Lee

      Correct, it’s in the backhaul network somewhere, not anything to do with the Openreach network that provides the fibres to street cabinets.

    • Avatar finaldest

      Fine, If you want to get all technical.

      In this instance its Skys backhaul but the point still stands. There is just no redundancy put into place.

      I can accept outages but the sheer lack of information or time line for resolution is unacceptable. Its now over 24hrs and still no service.

      If I provided customer service levels in my work equivalent to this then I would be out of business.

      I have now had to go to the expense of purchasing a 4g mobile solution to get me online. Are sky going to compensate? Don’t think so.

      These problems are becoming too frequent and something needs to be done. In the meantime I will vote with my wallet and go elsewhere.

    • Avatar MikeW

      A hint of Sky’s network architecture is given in this presentation on YouTube:
      https://youtu.be/uQUoO4Wb7s4?t=163

      – The core (London x 2, Birmingham, Leeds) has redundancy.
      – The PoPs (65 of them) have redundant connections into the core.
      – The exchanges (2,500-3,000) have connections to the PoPs, but are not shown to be redundant. Prior outages suggest that the connections to a PoP are actually daisy-chained from exchange to exchange.
      – There are two peering locations, with redundant connections into the core

      An single outage affecting multiple exchanges, like this one, is likely to be a problem with one of those daisy-chained non-redundant connection from exchange to PoP.

    • Avatar MikeW

      The FTTC component, however, is down to Openreach.

      The fibre from the FTTC cabinet to the head-end exchange isn’t redundant. At the head-end exchange (around 1,200 of these?), traffic will be handed over to the backhaul network – which is where it will hook into Sky’s network.

      Changing to a BTW-based backhaul ISP or a TTB-based backhaul ISP will, of course, pick up any redundancy in their networks instead, but won’t alter the lack of redundancy within Openreach’s access network.

    • Avatar Ignition

      @MikeW For the most part the exchanges are indeed big daisy chains, even in major cities. Bit alarming given this is the same data network the telephone service uses.

    • Avatar comnut

      BE carefull what you wish for….. That may even be VM cable in that mess too!!!! :O :O

      Last time it happened to VM locally, our 150M network was reduced to 5M, BUT it WAS working!!!

  3. Avatar Richard

    The number of rants on Twitter from users claiming they’ve lost a day’s business due to the outage and demanding compensation..
    Surely if the internet is that important, you’d have a backup connection of some kind?

    • Avatar DTMark

      Huawei 3G/4G MB modem B315 = £125 from Amazon
      Three data SIM card on PAYG = free

      Put data card in, turn on, browse to web page, top up with £2.99, switch wireless connection on your machine and you’re back online instantly with 500MB data, enough for e-mail and essentials, and can buy more. Round here, at speeds roughly level with VDSL.

      Our backup connectivity solution has cost us maybe £5.98 in the last year or so.

      Sky don’t have any business products, but I’d hate to think that there are ISPs selling these services as “business grade” on the basis that the SLAs are so weak that they can get away with a lack of redundancy and resilience by just giving out a little bit of cash if and only if the customer claims it.

    • Avatar 23Prince

      Agreed. I have a backup line. I also have 30GB on my mobile if I need it.

      I kept my days business – and I can’t be bothered to sign up to Twitter to complain – tech was created by us and we are far from perfect so.

  4. Avatar Starman

    If that photo is of the damage that would appear to be a Virgin Media bank of ducts so I’m assuming they provide backhaul.

  5. Avatar Chris C

    Looking at that photo poses one glaring obvious question, is the person doing the digging not looking at what he is doing, surely those pipes/ducts are visible before cutting through them all?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Seriously?

    • Avatar Optimist

      Recently a rep from British Gas called at my door to say the gas mains in my street were going to be replaced shortly. I said I didn’t use gas but hoped other services would not get cut off accidentally. He said they would take care and added that he knew of contractors who would simply dig into the tarmac with a machine taking no notice at all of the damage caused!

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      The initial damage would have been done by a digger and, unless the operator was aware of the cable, that would have done the initial damage. The clean cuts will have been done subsequent to that in preparation for patching it all together again.

  6. Avatar David roberts

    The marker identification tape is directly on top of the uppermost duct, this is poor installation as there should be a minimum distance of at least 10cm to ensure that anyone digging comes across the taoe first, rather that hit both taoe and duct together!

  7. Avatar fastman

    looks no resilience in the Backhaul !!!!! bet that cable comes from miles away and I think Gigaclear use a Cable and wireless network for Backhaul purposes

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