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Broadband ISP Lit Fibre Send Engineers Out After Borking ONTs

Friday, Feb 2nd, 2024 (1:43 pm) - Score 6,400
Lit Fibre ONT

Some of Lit Fibre‘s customers are reporting that the provider, which is deploying a new 10Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network across parts of England, is having to send engineers out to homes in order to fix a network outage that occurred after a software update broke some of their optical modems (ONT).

According to the feedback we’ve received from a few of those affected, the problems appear to have started after one of the provider’s planned maintenance windows, which we’re told was scheduled to occur between 12:01am and 3am on Thursday 1st February 2024. Such things are usually quite routine, but in this case a number of their customers were instead left without a working internet connection.

NOTE: Lit Fibre is backed by an unspecified equity investment from Newlight Partners LP.

Currently the ONT fibre light is not lit up (oh the irony of Lit Fibre), but [I] have been advised an engineer site visit is required … I’m in a long list of people included in the outage, so they can’t confirm a site visit time,” said one of the impacted customers. In full fibre networks, the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) is an optical modem that typically gets installed on the wall, inside your home, and is then connected to your router.

At the time of writing, Lit Fibre’s Service Status page is reporting the occurrence of an unspecified “incident” that is only said to be affecting customers in the Clacton-on-Sea and Bishop’s Stortford areas, although we’ve also had a similar report from the Chippenham area. The status page doesn’t provide much detail and merely calls, repeatedly, upon subscribers to try rebooting their ONT.

Lit Fibre Incident Update – 02/02/2024, 11:10

Customers may be experiencing a temporary loss of service. If your Internet connection is down, please reboot the wall-mounted ONT unit with the Lit Fibre logo by unplugging it from the power for 10 minutes and plugging it back in. If your service does not come up after another 10 minutes, please give us a call at 0330 460 4610.

Broadband ISPs suffer from localised network outages all the time, thus we typically only cover those that are either very unusual (this example) or which occur at a significant scale. In this case, the focus is on the fact that Lit Fibre are having to send engineers out directly to affected homes – a highly rare occurrence for this sort of event – in order to resolve the outage (possibly by either re-flashing the firmware locally or replacing the ONT).

A spokesperson for Lit Fibre told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Unfortunately we have encountered a highly unusual issue with a small proportion of the ONT’s in our network. Fewer than 1% of the ONT’s in our network failed to respond to a software upgrade that took place overnight on 1st Feb. Despite remote efforts to restore connectivity, we’ve now deployed engineers to affected customers’ homes to replace the faulty ONTs and restore service.

We’re coordinating with customers to schedule convenient visits and anticipate completing them by tomorrow. A thorough analysis of the equipment will follow to determine the root cause.”

Sometimes ONTs do fail, just like any electronic equipment of modest complexity, but off-hand we can’t recall seeing any past cases where such a proportion “failed to respond” after a software update – necessitating a home visit by engineers, although it’s not often that they actually need to be updated. The situation will no doubt be very irritating for customers, as well as being extremely stressful for the network / support teams and installers in the field.

The provider, which started their deployment in 2021 and aims to reach 500,000 homes by 2026, is currently rolling out their network to cover numerous towns across several of England’s counties (e.g. Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Worcestershire, Essex, Suffolk and across the Midlands). So far the operator has already covered 140,000 premises (Ready for Service), which is up from 100,000 in April 2023.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
19 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Chris Sayers says:

    Oops!

  2. Avatar photo GreenLantern22 says:

    In this and age this sort of failure is unacceptable. Plenty of consumer equipment features dual firmware booting with protection for situations like this where a firmware update bricks the device. The fact that ONT vendors have not caught up to modern features like this one is very disappointing. Perhaps network operators need to up their game and put some serious pressure. The other thing that seems useless is the continued use of the ONT itself. Routers should be able to easily implement the ONT protocol and just connect to the fibre directly using SFP and SFP+ transceiver. We went through this with ADSL, VDSL and cable modem. Why does it take for years for the device manufacturers to integrate all technologies into a single device?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      A number of issues with the SFP ONT module approach, which stems from issues of compatibility to cost problems stemming from limited router support / device selection. Some providers would also rather customers never touched the fibre cable/connections for safety and support reasons on a live line etc.

    2. Avatar photo 125us says:

      The ONT is performing a security function, preventing one customer from seeing the data belonging to other customers. ISPs very much want to be in control of the hardware performing that function.

    3. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Also provides a handy demarcation point between the network operator and the retail ISP. In the case of Openreach say, they will control the ONT and the retail ISP provides the router (be it BT/SKY/Vodafone for example). Should also make the job of changing provider on the same wholesale network a lot easier.

    4. Avatar photo Tom says:

      ONTs cost tiny amounts of money so easier to replace on rare failure then build in dual firmware image function.

      People regularly break fibre patch leads in a home environment so having the ONT fixed to the wall and a simple ethernet cable is by far a better option.

      Having said that, I dislike the requirement for two power plugs.

      Ref: “the ONT adds security”, data is encrypted to each ONT. Even if you could monitor the line you would only be able to tell how many other ONTs are active but not the content of the customer data.

    5. Avatar photo Jonny says:

      I’d be happy to see ONTs standardise on 5v power with a USB-C socket, and for routers to have a port designed to power them. I like having a device attached to the wall with the fibre connected into it though with lights on that the ISP is responsible for keeping in service. Consumers are not ready to deal with keeping fibre connectors clean and free of scratches.

    6. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Parts of the GPON and XGSPON protocols aren’t standardised to interoperate. Vendors like being able to guarantee ONT sales having built the OLTs.

      The kit exists that provides everything in one box and is in use on a couple of networks in North America and no doubt elsewhere. That kit is produced by the vendor that would be producing the ONT for the network and customers hate it as they can’t bring their own router.

    7. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

      @Jonny that would be daft. There is a well defined IEEE standard for powering devices over ethernet, it is about time they started offering ONTs that could be powered use Power over Ethernet(POE). It has the additional benefit of using the same cable that you already are using to connect the ONT to the router and your router can now be up to 100m from the ONT without need a power socket near the ONT.

    8. Avatar photo Tom says:

      Some of the Ubiquiti ONTs take power over micro usb or PoE 🙂

    9. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      re: cable modems

      not really the case in the UK. You’ve never been able to buy or use your own modem. Even in the days before custom hardware & NTL/TW were handing out Motorola Surfboards or whatever, you used what they supplied and nothing else.

      As for ONTs in general, a big advantage for the network operator is that it is a device they control. They do not have to worry about the host device causing potential issues. As long as its powered & there isn’t a physical fault, they can interrogate it and prove that the service is working OK right up to the ethernet port.

      I also suspect that the more experienced network operators have seen the kind of horrors the customers do with copper & thus a wall mounted box eliminates any deliberate meddling.

      It also wouldn’t have prevented this issue with “Lit Fibre” – the SFP devices take firmware upgrades too…

    10. Avatar photo Chris W says:

      @Jonathan I don’t think it’s daft at all given most routers nowadays have USB ports, so if an ONT could be powered via USB that’d mean one less plug/socket required (I personally use the USB port on mine to power an IKEA Tradfri hub). PoE implementation would mean ISPs having to supply a more expensive router and ONT that provides PoE and customers who want to replace said router potentially having to buy one that offers it.

    11. Avatar photo Jonny says:

      PoE would absolutely be preferable but on a device that is designed to sell for £15 it’s probably not achievable. USB-C would at least be a small step towards standardising and solve the issue of multiple sockets being taken up.

    12. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Jonathan: to power said ONT would require either a PoE injector or a PoE switch. The injector needs a power cable anyway, the switch would be a nightmare as you’d need VLANs if planning to use it as a switch.

      The routers providers supply don’t come with PoE. If they did provide them they’d start getting support calls from customers when they tried using their own routers, couldn’t get connected and their ONT went dark.

      Not worth it for residential. Low demand, high cost.

    13. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Security: the ONT in a customer’s home only protects their data. Each ONT has a different encryption key from a unique key exchange with the OLT.

      Controlling the ONT doesn’t do anything for security: if someone were that interested they’d put an optical splitter on the incoming cable and have both the provider ONT and their own snooping device on there.

      Same goes for cable: rather than trying to crack the provider’s modem it makes more sense to use a splitter and a custom coded modem, not that it is much use anymore with BPI+ security.

      All about manufacturer control, Openreach for instance didn’t get to use Nokia ONTs on Huawei OLTs for free, compatibility and the pain of having to certify devices for interoperability and support customers bringing their own.

    14. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      > Security: the ONT in a customer’s home only protects their data. Each ONT has a different encryption key from a unique key exchange with the OLT.

      But do you realise that the encryption key is chosen dynamically, and is sent *in the clear* from the ONT to the OLT?

      The security relies on the fact that the amount of light which leaks out via the splitter in the “uplink” direction from one ONT to another ONT is small; and also that off-the-shelf ONT hardware is unable to receive on the same wavelength that it transmits.

    15. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Presume that was aimed at 125us: I didn’t say anything about controlling the ONT being relevant to security. Literally the next paragraph says:

      ‘Controlling the ONT doesn’t do anything for security: if someone were that interested they’d put an optical splitter on the incoming cable and have both the provider ONT and their own snooping device on there.’

    16. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I prefer it the way it is, much easier to stick a longer ethernet cable between the router and the ONT than extend and muck around with fibre. i did think about the extra energy usage, but it would be minimal and I used to use a separate modem anyway on FTTC.

  3. Avatar photo Bob says:

    Whilst an ONT is low cost sending an Engineer out to swap one out is not. It is unclear as to how may users were impacted

Comments are closed

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