That age old problem of metric vs imperial…

.. may have reared its head again as, over the weekend, a Thames Water “deep thrust borer” tunnelling machine managed to destroy a set of BT fibre-optic lines. The initial outage caused over 70,000 customers and businesses to be cut off, including telecoms & mobile cell-phone services along with broadband and dedicated line connections. (see: The Register, and The Register)

A statement about Vodafone was released yesterday morning that read:

Vodafone have advised us that they are still suffering a reduced service at present in parts of Greater London, Kent, and Hertfordshire. This is due to a contractor working on the Olympic site in Stratford cutting through a service tunnel carrying multiple fibre connections for various vendors.

This issue is not confined to Vodafone, other mobile operators and telephony services are also affected.

Vodafone are working with BT to resolve this.

We will provide further updates as soon as we have more information.

Transport for London is also affected, with some traffic signals completely cut off from HQ control, meaning that they are on fall-back timings and cannot adapt to changing traffic conditions.

Due to the nature of the damage, which happened 34 meters below street level, and the restricted access to the site, it is not possible at this stage to provide an exact time-frame as to when service will be restored to all customers.

BT Statement

While Thames Water suggested that the incident happened at 10 meters below the surface, and Telstra are reported to have said the problem occurred at 34 feet. (34 feet = 10.4 meters) Does this mean that someone got confused in the reporting of the incident, or that someone had their equipment at the wrong depth? It could either be BT having their fibre lines at the wrong depth, or Thames Water having read the plans wrong and put their tunnel in the wrong place. The fact that Thames Water described the BT line as “an uncharted obstruction” suggests that someone is wrong somewhere.

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