The UK telephone network supports 300 million phone calls and 350 million Internet connections every day. Openreach have specially trained engineers who look after this network on behalf of Broadband providers. They do everything from installing new lines to carrying out repairs. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, an Openreach engineer’s job gets more difficult. They do most of their work outside exposed to the elements, unlike TalkTalk engineers who are only responsible for fixing faults inside customers’ homes.
In winter, excavation work like clearing blockages and digging up roads is much harder. Concrete also takes longer to set in the cold, so installing network equipment is more difficult. If the weather gets too bad and causes serious damage to the network, Openreach will declare an MBORC which stands for Matters Beyond Our Reasonable Control. This is when repairs in the worst-hit areas take priority over everywhere else, and often conditions are so bad that repairs take much longer than usual.
If damaged network equipment causes problems in one area, this is classed as a local MBORC. If a more serious event affects multiple areas, like the Beast from the East, Openreach will declare a national MBORC. The most common cause is lightning and flooding, but they can also be caused by things that aren’t weather-related. Fires in telephone exchanges have caused issues in the past, as well as cars crashing into green cabinets on the street.
So, how do Openreach engineers prepare for wintry conditions and potential MBORCs? All of their vans are equipped with snowshoes, salt and shovels. They use sections of pre-set concrete when installing equipment, which helps the wet concrete set faster in the cold. They also give heat maps to Broadband providers that are updated daily to reflect the amount of repairs happening across the UK. These maps can be used to keep an eye on areas at greater risk of MBORC and keep customers informed.
We post updates about MBORCs and any other known issues on our service status page. If you're worried that your broadband isn't running as well as usual, you can also check your service where we test your line and tell you how our services are performing in your area.