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UK Broadband ISPs Disrupted by BT Exchange Fire in Newcastle UPDATE3

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020 (2:13 pm) - Score 4,396
Fire sparks particles with flames isolated on black background.

We’ve received reports that broadband and other telecoms services across part of North East England are currently being disrupted by a fire that has broken out at a core BT exchange (NCL) in Newcastle. The situation is known to be affecting connectivity for a number of UK ISPs and their customers.

The fire is understood to have started around midday. The Technology Group, a managed communications provider, said: “We are advised that there is a core BT outage affecting 000s of customers across multiple providers. Initial reports indicate this is due to an Exchange fire and is localised to the North of England, affecting multiple Network Carriers. We apologise on behalf of the carrier for the disruption and are working with our providers to understand the issue and a timeline for resolution. We will issue further updates as we receive them. We are advised the next update is likely to be around 1500.”

Meanwhile broadband ISP Andrews and Arnold (AAISP) has published a status update direct from BT, which said: “Our network team have raised [an issue] for a fire in the Newcastle node… obviously the fire will need to be put out and permission granted to enter and assess the damage when safe to do so” (here).

A BT Spokesperson said:

“We’re aware some customers are currently experiencing problems when trying to make calls or connect to the internet. This is due to a fire in Newcastle, which has now been contained. Our engineers are on site and working quickly to resolve this.

We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused.”

At the time of writing it’s unclear how the fire started or if anybody has been hurt in the incident, but we hope not. Sadly fires have a tendency to cause lengthy periods of disruption and as such it may be awhile before normal service is fully restored, although in the meantime engineers should be able to reroute most of the traffic (we’re already seeing a lot of lines return to life).

At present we don’t know how much damage has been caused.

UPDATE 2:31pm

A number of shops in Newcastle city centre are currently only able to take cash payments due to their data links being down.

The Northumberland County Council (NCC) have also posted the following notice: “We’re aware of national reports BT and TalkTalk internet are down for many people across the UK. There was also reports earlier from Northern Powergrid of powercuts affecting the NE22, NE61 and NE62 postcode areas.”

Emergency Services have also been hit.

UPDATE 3:03pm

TalkTalk has confirmed that their lines are back to normal. A spokesperson for the ISP said: “The earlier issues in the North East of England have now been resolved. We apologise for the inconvenience caused during this time and appreciate your patience whilst we worked to get things fixed.” Most providers were back to normal after 2pm (partly due to traffic re-routing), but it will take longer to fully repair the damage itself.

UPDATE 4:35pm

The Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) has issued the following update.

Tyne & Wear FRS Statement

Earlier today, crews from Newcastle Central, Byker and Hebburn were called to a BT building in Newcastle, where an automatic fire alarm had activated and staff had reported a smell of burning.

The crews identified the source and together with onsite engineers, decided that the safest course of action was to isolate some of the equipment. No one was hurt and smoke damage was minimal.

We understand that some services have been disrupted as a result of the incident and BT engineers are working to resolve this. As always, if you need to call 999, please use a mobile phone where possible.

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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.
Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. Avatar AAISP-Andrew says:

    We saw most lines reconnect shortly after 2PM.

    1. Avatar Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

      Yup, same here

  2. Avatar DDL says:

    electrical fire on the 4th floor, which meant they had to turn off all power – services are returning now – their main frames for national connectivity went down as well – these will take a while to restore completely

    National Connectivity was restored about 2PM

    Still waiting on Telecoms Lines

  3. Avatar Pezza says:

    Oh no! Hope no one was injured, just some equipment, I’ve been in a few exchanges and the attention to detail and neatness is second to none. All for safety. Hope they locate the cause and get back up and running soon.

  4. Avatar JitteryPinger says:

    Running the links a little hot there huh

  5. Avatar James says:

    Get a claim to recoup the cost of replacing all the Huawei gear

  6. Avatar Jonny says:

    Interesting that the fire service recommend using a mobile phone if you need to call 999 (“as always”), is this common advice? We could do with something official as guidance to our customers to move them away from being tempted to call the emergency services from a softphone while they’re working from home.

    1. Avatar 125us says:

      Your first priority should always be to get out and stay out, so advice to call from a mobile seems sound.

    2. Avatar LBB says:

      A lot of softphones cannot call 112 or 999 on purpose, hence needing a mobile. The reason is to do with geographical routing logic to these special numbers.

      When you call Emergency Services from a cellular network, we prefix your call with the Network ID and Routing Zone of the serving cell so you are always routed (via BT) to your local/regional call handling centre and not randomly sent to the other end of the country which could be life threatening in terms of delays being patched back through to the correct area.

  7. Avatar Jonathan says:

    I would say this was the Lemmington exchange just South West of the junction of the A1/A69. Mostly because it effected Prudhoe which is some 12 miles west of Newcastle, and using the trick of using the postcodes on new build estates, it shows a new estate in Prudhoe being feed from Lemmington. Interestingly Stocksfield which is two miles further west was unaffected, I am guessing it’s fed from Hexham.

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