UK ISPs crippled by undersea cable snap

Many quickly re-routed but slowcoaches O2, Be slapped


Updated A major internet routing outage struck UK telcos over the bank holiday weekend - knackering access to the World of Warcraft website*, the BBC, Amazon, Facebook and other sites for more than 24 hours.

It's understood that a submarine cable carrying web traffic snapped between Blighty and the Netherlands, causing headaches for ISPs. Some Reg readers affected by the downtime had suspected that the culprit was undersea fibre optic cabling that had been mistakenly sliced.

Rumours that some considered to be outlandish on O2's customer forum suggested that a submarine may have hit a line in the Atlantic, causing internet connection issues throughout Europe on Sunday.

Meanwhile, officially, O2 told its customers:

Dear members, the recent routing issues causing unreachable destinations from our network are caused by a major fibre breakdown.

A number of Reg readers wondered if global internet connectivity outfit Level 3 had been responsible for the outage. However, the company confirmed to us that it too had been affected as a customer of networking biz Interoute, whose sub-sea cable was understood to be at fault.

Level 3 said in a statement to us:

We do have some leased capacity from Interoute which was impacted by the cable cut. Upon notification of the failure on the Interoute Network, Level 3 took immediate action to re-route our customers onto our own network.

UK telcos such as BSkyB and BT were apparently relatively swift at responding to the problem by routing their networks in order to keep disruption to a minimum.

However, Telefonica - which owns O2 and Be - came under fire from its punters for what many considered to be a slow response in tackling the outage.

One frustrated customer said on O2's forum just yesterday:

Almost 30 hours to get so much as any acknowledgement on any of the O2 status pages. A mind numbingly inept display by O2.

While another complained:

It's been 32 hrs since I went down, still no update from 02 or any sort of a time scale, according to net BT and Sky had this fixed hours ago.

El Reg has asked O2 and Interoute to comment on this story, but neither had responded at time of publication. We'll update the piece if O2 or Interoute do furnish us with statements. ®

* WoW was still down "for maintenance" at the time of publication.

Updated to add

Interoute's chief technology officer Matthew Finnie has been in touch to confirm that on 27 August at 02.57am GMT, the undersea cable broke approximately 120km off the UK shore and 100km off the Netherlands shore.

"A specialist cable marine crew and vessel have been engaged," he said. "The timeline for a full system fix is currently pending. The cause of the fibre break has not yet been fully determined. However, current information suggests that the culprit was a ship's anchor.

"Approximately 400Gbps of services have been successfully re-routed and handed back into active service since the break occurred. In the next 48 hours, Interoute aims to have 75 to 80 per cent of the total unprotected services back up and running.

"None of Interoute's protected services, e.g. Internet, corporate connectivity, hosting or video have been affected. We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this cable break."

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