The UK’s broadband networks have coped well despite a surge in people working from home © PA Archive/PA Images

Virgin Media has apologised after a network outage left thousands of customers without internet access in London for six hours on Thursday, enraging people forced to work from home because of lockdown.

Britain’s broadband and mobile networks have largely held up well despite the huge strain of millions of people working and streaming video games and movies from home during the day. Regulator Ofcom said in May that average broadband speeds had fallen only 2 per cent during lockdown despite daytime traffic rising between 35 per cent and 60 per cent.

Yet even short-term outages have triggered fury among broadband users left unable to work with Sky and TalkTalk both experiencing problems in recent weeks. Virgin Media has struggled more than most and a high-profile incident in April meant many of its 4m broadband users could not access the internet.

The cable company said that the broadband outage on Thursday affected a relatively small pocket of customers in the capital.

It said the problem was caused by signal interference between its broadband and TV services at one site, rather than hot weather or over-capacity. The issue was resolved by the early afternoon.

“This morning some of our customers in London experienced broadband and TV issues which have now been fixed. This did not hit all customers in London and it was not a nationwide outage,” the group said. It declined to say how many people had been affected. “While our engineers worked as quickly as possible to solve the problem, we know how frustrating it is to be without our services and we apologise to those affected.”

Ofcom has set rules about automatic compensation for customers who lose their connectivity but these apply only after two working days.

Better network reliability is one of the main drivers for companies to invest in full-fibre networks, which require less maintenance and suffer fewer faults than copper-based broadband technology. Virgin Media, which is owned by Liberty Global, began a £3bn network upgrade in 2015 called Project Lightning. Last month it agreed to merge with mobile network O2, a deal that includes a commitment to invest £10bn into their combined UK network.


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