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O2 network damaged by thieves

Millions of O2 customers across a swathe of the South East were cut off for almost 18 hours on Tuesday after thieves raided a network building in East London.image

The gang, described as “well organised” by O2, struck just after midnight, shutting down phone, text and broadband services in Kent and Sussex as well as parts of North and East London.

The outage also affected Tesco Mobile and giffgaff customers, whose services are based on the O2 network.

On-call engineers who attended the unmanned building called police and were working throughout the day to restore the network, alongside forensics officers.

“This was a well organised theft which targeted this operations site,” an O2 spokesman said.

“Our engineers were on site as soon as possible.”

“Once we discovered that there had been a theft, we made the site secure and informed the police.”

The firm added that vandalism by the thieves made repair work more difficult.

It follows a similar raid on a Vodafone building in Basingstoke in February, which crippled services for millions of its customers in the South.

Such facilities contain millions of pounds worth of specialised switching and routing equipment that can be broken up into valuable and difficult-to-trace parts destined for in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Thieves have also targeted fixed-line network equipment in London in recent years. It is also typically housed in unmanned facilities.

O2 said “the nature of this theft has prevented us from restoring the network immediately”, but it expected to replace equipment and finish repairs by the end of Tuesday. Services gradually began to return at around 4.30 pm.

But customers took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

“So finally at approx 16:20 network starts working again. I’m not impressed. I want my money back for today please,” said Rhi Needham, a metals analyst working in London’s Docklands area.

Filed in: Technology News

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