BT: No danger of mass internet outage in UK

BT: No danger of mass internet outage in UK

Summary: Resilient infrastructure should prevent the UK from experiencing a disruption to internet connectivity similar to the one that hit the Middle East and India

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TOPICS: Networking
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The UK is unlikely ever to suffer the kind of internet service disruption recently experienced in the Middle East and India on Wednesday, according to BT.

The telecoms company said that an incident of the same scale was unlikely to affect the UK, due to much more extensive infrastructure. "We do have pretty substantial resilience," said a BT spokesperson. "We can't go into any more detail about the network for obvious national security reasons, but the UK is linked to the US and Europe by quite a few sub-sea cables."

BT added that none of its UK customers had been affected by the cutting of the FLAG and Sea-Me-We-4 undersea cables in the Mediterranean Sea. "It hasn't had a major impact on us," added the BT spokesperson. "We had a couple of private circuits affected, but we have a disaster recovery plan for our Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), voice and data platforms for corporations. We have rerouted data onto other cables."

BT also operates so-called leased-lines for global corporations, and buys private circuits from cable consortia to transmit corporate data. Some of these circuits were affected by the cable severance, but BT restored service by another route, added the spokesperson.

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FLAG, or the Fiber-optic Link Around the Globe, is one of the main undersea internet cables linking the UK to the US and Japan. Sea-Me-We-4 provides the main internet backbone between Europe, the Middle East and south-east Asia. Both cables are believed to have been severed between Palermo and Alexandria when a tanker dragged its anchor over them during heavy weather, according to insiders. The tanker is now believed to have been secured.

Internet connectivity in some parts of India was reduced by up to 50 percent according to reports, while Egypt's telecoms ministry said 70 percent of its internet network was down.

Ovum analyst, David James, said that the cable industry is trying to improve its disaster-recovery procedures but that the sea floor around Alexandria contains a high concentration of cables due to the need to pass through the bottleneck of the Red Sea. "Although there is a certain amount of routing diversity and some 'spare' capacity on alternative routes, it does take time to re-route traffic through undamaged cables. The submarine cable industry took the Taiwan earthquake as a wake-up call, and has been working over the past year to improve service recovery times," said James.

Topic: Networking

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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2 comments
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  • BT Resilience?

    I seem to remember a fire in a cable duct in Machester taking out large numbers of connections in March 2004, affecting people far outside the immediate vicinity of Manchester, and throughout the UK.
    Have BT improved their resilience since then or have the accountants nipped away and that "unused" capacity?
    tomaaa1
  • Pity that BT say otherwise ...

    Sitting in a small village in southern Berkshire over the past weekend I received a telephone call from a good friend who had lost her internet connection.

    Having set this system up for my neighbour who is an elderly great grandmother - I've created an internet junkie who now shops online & sends video postcards to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live only a few miles down the road !!

    So receiving this telephone call is nothing unusual. Thinking that she had once again the network cable had been sucked into the hoover. Gladys explained that she was unable to get on-line, so she had checked the cables and because she could ping the router she knew the cables were in place; and just wanted to confirm that she had done nothing stupid before calling BT who often treat her as though she is an utter idiot.

    Sitting there whilst Gladys phoned BT's Helpdesk (commenly called Bull-Talks) Gladys placed the call on speaker phone whilst she provided all the information that was required by the operator.

    "Ping www.BT.com"
    "I've done that and do not get any reply"
    "What is the exact message you receive ?"
    "I have ping'd the site and I do not get any response"
    "OKay, can you ping anything else ?"
    "Yes, my router, but no internet sites"
    "Maybe you router is incorrectly configured"
    "Maybe it's not, because it was working lastnight and I was surfing the web"

    "er, hold the line please let me speak with a colleague"

    "Hello, Apologies but the reason that you cannot connect to the internet is because a ship sank on the internet cable, and it may take upto 10 days to repair"

    I tried not to fall off my chair and spill my coffee as I rolled around in fits of laughter.

    "I'm sorry but did you say that a ship has sunk upon the cable that carries my internet connection to my local exchange"

    "Yes Madam, a ship has sunk upon the internet cable, and it will take upto 10 days to repair"

    Looking on in total disbelief at the stupidity of this woman Gladys finally hangs up the phone before bursting out in fits of laughter.

    We're in Berkshire, and at least 70 miles north of Southsea, and at least a few hundred miles north of the Mediteranean.

    Maybe someone should ensure that BT actually train their staff to firstly in their ability to conduct diagnostics, in geography and finally the ability to tell the truth !!
    pounder_arthur9