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Major Broadband and Phone Outage Strikes ISPs in East Scotland UPDATE

Friday, May 25th, 2018 (10:44 am) - Score 3,438
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Customers of UK ISPs such as Sky Broadband and TalkTalk are this morning being affected by a loss of broadband and phone services across several exchanges in East Scotland, with some pointing the finger of blame at a damaged core network cable from Virgin Media.

A support agent for TalkTalk said, “Some customers are having issues with their phone and broadband services in Scotland. We’re working hard to get services back up and running as soon as possible. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.” Meanwhile Sky said, “You might not be able to get online or make/receive phone calls due to a problem in your local area. We’re working on fixing the problem. We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

The issue is of course likely to be affecting more providers and areas than just those mentioned above and the number of exchanges affected may vary, depending upon how the ISPs manage their traffic and capacity in any given area.

Assuming a cable break is responsible then most such damage occurs accidentally, often due to third party contractors, although others can be caused by malicious or criminal damage and related incidents may take several hours to resolve.

In extreme cases a serious cable break could affect an area for several days or longer but such situations are rare and usually much more isolated. Separately there are also some more sporadic outages in Newcastle.

UPDATE 1:21pm

The problems in Scotland are no longer being mentioned on TalkTalk’s service status page, which suggests that they’ve been resolved. Sky’s page is currently unchanged but may shortly follow suit.

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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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17 Responses
  1. Avatar Wujek Pawel

    About 10 year ago in about 250k citizen city in Poland, two guys in telecom operator outfits, parked their van on main street and using electric winch have stolen about 500m of 96 pairs copper cable. It took them less than 20 minutes.

  2. Avatar CarlT

    13 exchanges on a single fibre, and there may be others on that daisy chain it was cut part way through.

    Perhaps that desperate drive to sell as cheaply as possible, so skimping on resiliency on the backhaul, isn’t such a smart idea.

    If Ofcom could take a break from ruining the ultrafast broadband market they could, perhaps, take a look at networks selling PSTN services with a bunch of single points of failure.

  3. Avatar Cecil Ward

    A moron tried to steal a supposedly copper cable emerging from Loch Carrann I think somewhere near Strome Ferry perhaps. It was fibre optic cable. Knackered local communications services by damaging it.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-18365150
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-18773227

  4. Avatar Rahul

    I may be wrong in my assumptions, but this might be a conspiracy from Virgin Media particularly since they use their own network cable.

    It may be a deliberate attempt from Virgin Media to damage a BT Openreach cable, so that way customers get unhappy & angry from BT Openreach and thereby quit Sky, TalkTalk and switch over to Virgin Media or another provider out of frustration.

    There should be CCTV camera footage focused on the cabling works that can observe the engineers or any other intruder to see if someone broke a cable through intentional malice or whether it was really accidental. This would be easily detected from body language and movements of the person responsible for breaking the cable.

    • Avatar Chris P

      CCTV coverage across the thousands of miles of buried cable or every time someone digs into the ground anywhere?

      The cable was providing back haul for various providers and should have had a redundant twin path that traversed a completely different path which ensures service is maintained in the event of an issue like this. It costs lots more and operators can save a fortune by not having resilience and redundancy but gamble their reputation if a problem occurs.

      There is no conspiracy, major cables break all the time and it’s possible for operators or cable providers to mitigate against but clearly some don’t see the need to bother. Would you trust your retail or mobile phone network where being unavailable will literally cost you millions a day to these providers?

    • Avatar CarlT

      You aren’t just wrong, you are in tin-foil hat territory and haven’t understood the story.

      According to the story it was Virgin Media fibre that was broken so they’re costing themselves money on service level agreements and guarantees with the outage.

      I would imagine if VM were intending to vandalise other operators’ fibre they would choose areas where they have significant cable presence.

      The idea of having CCTV watching contractors work is authoritarian, absurd and entirely unnecessary. Roadworks are notified in advance and it’s hardly something you can pretend didn’t happen and instantly cover up. A company can hardly claim it wasn’t them that hit a duct when they’re digging the ground right where the break happened.

      Regardless if a company were maliciously damaging competitors’ network they’d hardly notify the local council of their intention to do so, hire some contractors in and start digging, they’d open a chamber cover with some bolt cutters.

      Chris P – I’ve no doubt redundant routes were available but aren’t provided for free and Sky/TT didn’t want to pay.

  5. Avatar Meadmodj

    The issue here is reliability and resilience. Whilst we accept tree and branch topologies in the distribution network for economies, core networks should have resilience and alternative routing. I am sure many buying Sky or Talk Talk did not relise they were dependant on VM.

    So the issue is that the network topologies are not visble to a customer. This is not likely to be that important for consumers driven by price but it is a reminder to businesses paying a premium. If they buy circuits from two providers with the intention of resilience and then end up finding they are on the same cable its not good.

    On top of that is the point made by others than Altnets are using Mains Power required Cabinet configurations on their Fibre networks which defeats the object of fibres that can communicate 100s of Km.

    Buyer beware

    • Avatar CarlT

      Sky and TalkTalk customers are dependent on a number of operators. They don’t have their own fibre to every exchange so are reliant on others with more extensive fibre networks. VM’s transmission network is fine. Using it is basically a non-issue.

      There is no issue that topologies are not visible to the average consumer. Do you seriously think the average TalkTalk customer, drawn to the provider by being about the cheapest around, and the promise of no in-contract price increases, really cares about whether the exchange they are operating on is part of a daisy chain or a ring?

      Those who do buy two circuits for resilience will try and have them from entirely different operators. The odds of a VM cable modem and an Openreach-based service being in the same duct are remote as, of course, the VM service goes to a nearby VM hubsite, not an exchange, and will be protected from that hub onwards.

      Regardless my comment was about telephony and, in the case of VM at least, their own telephony service is optically protected.

      The remark about altnets using mains powered cabinets referred to access network fibre, not core transmission network. Altnets for obvious reasons use others for core transmission, and where they light the fibre themselves they have protected power supplies.

      There is a market in providing a protective software defined overlay across multiple broadband transports for a reason – it is best effort delivery, usually with no protection in the access and in many cases transport network. The place where transport becomes core becomes backbone varies.

      I’m not against broadband services being vulnerable, however telephony being so precarious is something of a no-no without a reliable mobile back up and, as the distinction between them becomes less and less evident, things do perhaps need to change to provide integrated connectivity services rather than landline, broadband, mobile.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I was simply attempting to raise the issue that resilience and reliability is an increasing issue and it is difficult for customers to distinguish between providers. I am not having a go at VM. The failure rate of locations with OR network is far too high. As frequently shown on ISPreview expectations are high.

    • Avatar Alan

      “I am sure many buying Sky or Talk Talk did not relise they were dependant on VM.”

      I am more sure the “many” do not care about such things.

  6. Avatar Mml

    I don’t quite get it what does Virgin Media’s cable have to do with all this. I thought VM didn’t share their cables with anyone? Earlier this month there was a story here about how they were in talks with TalkTalk about sharing each other’s cables and how unusual of VM it was, and now you’re saying both TalkTalk and Sky depend on VM fibre somewhere?

    • Avatar CarlT

      These guys use VM, among others, for exchange backhaul. VM don’t allow others to use their cable network but certainly sell bandwidth on their fibre network to other operators.

    • Avatar 125us

      These companies are buying backhaul, in the form of private circuits, from Virgin. There are literally dozens of companies who will sell you fibre backhaul on their networks, it’s only in the last mile where fibre is costly.

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