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O2's southeastern crash caused by 'well-organised theft'

Work of an international gang, seemingly

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Updated O2's ongoing outage was down to a well-organised theft of networking kit, which engineers are struggling to replace while promising to connect customers by close of play.

O2 customers in North and East London, Sussex and Kent are still without service following a break-in at one of the operator's unmanned sites. While clearly professionals the thieves still managed to make a mess of the site, which is why it's taking so long to get the network up and running again.

The break-in was at one of O2's East London hubs, around midnight, with engineers responding when huge chunks of South East England lost connectivity. Repairs were further delayed by the necessity of securing the site until plods arrived to gather evidence, in the hope of catching the miscreants responsible.

Photographs taken and evidence gathered, the engineers are now working on restoring the network and O2 is hoping to have full coverage again later today.

But no one is expecting network switches to turn up in the local boozer or market stall; it seems this theft was professionally carried out and probably with a buyer in mind. Telecom switches are expensive bits of hardware, but only to the right person - your average tealeaf would have more luck shifting a Monet than a network switch, but there are operators around the world who will pay for the right equipment.

In February Vodafone was hit by a similar theft, in Basingstoke, which also saw specialist switches disappear in the middle of the night and customers left disconnected for half a day.

Neither Vodafone nor O2 is saying exactly what was taken, or how far the police investigations have got - but expect to see all the network operators reviewing their security arrangements in the next few weeks. ®

Update

O2 has now sent us the following statement: "Following the theft and vandalism at one of our operational sites in E London, we have been working hard to resume normal mobile service to N and E London, Kent and E Sussex. Some affected customers were able to make calls again from 4.30 pm, and service across the region is being restored now with a few pockets of no coverage still remaining. We are carefully monitoring this throughout the night."

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