TalkTalk’s service disruption in the UK during COVID-19

author: MedUX

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Operator impacted: TalkTalk (nationwide)

Date: May 29, 2020

Duration: Less than 2 hours, mostly between 10 AM and 12 AM (BST)

Access technologies affected: VDSL

Potential impact: 4.3 million DSL lines

On May 29, many TalkTalk users in the UK experienced a service disruption affecting Internet service across the country, which prevented TalkTalk’s VDSL users from getting online and browsing the Internet. TalkTalk has around 4.3 million broadband customers, representing approximately 8% of the total broadband users in the UK. National newspapers reported the issue, and customers’ complaints filled the social networks.

According to the British newspaper Daily Mail, 95% of complaints reported by TalkTalk customers were related to Internet problems.

TalkTalk worked hard to resolve the issue after the Internet outage hit many VDSL end-users during busy morning hours to continue providing customers with the service they need and keep them connected. The service was completely recovered within less than two hours, and the interruptions affected the customer experience only partially and temporarily.

MedUX observed a service outage during morning hours (between 10 AM and 12 PM BST) in TalkTalk VDSL services on May 29. This service degradation varied across regions, and the lack of Internet connectivity impacted the Customer Experience when customers were unable to access the Internet. At around 10 AM, service availability was at its lowest and recovered gradually afterwards. Based on MedUX information, this service disruption does not seem to be related to the lockdown or caused by increased demand.

As seen in the following figure, the percentage of successful tests was below 50% at the peak degradation time.

TalkTalk VDSL service degradation was not reflected in the rest of the operators, which continued performing as usual. As shown in the following figure, network service disruption for TalkTalk had a nationwide impact.

For the most affected regions, mainly Wales, London and the South East and North East regions, service disruption reached its peak around 10 AM, with network accessibility ratios around 40% on average.

The following figure evinces that this outage affected some of the most-used services, such as web browsing, cloud storage and video streaming, due to issues with Internet connectivity. TalkTalk’s hard work and efforts toward network recovery mitigated the impact, as the service availability was recovered to over 90% after 11 AM, approximately one hour after peak degradation time.

It has been observed that not all the services were affected in the same way by the disruption. While the MedUX team is researching this fact to understand in detail the impact on customer experience, some general insights can be made.

MedUX’s monitoring insights point to a loss of Internet connectivity or loss to the DNS platform, “DNS Unresolved”, as the root cause of this service outage. This leads to customers experiencing issues when browsing, but also when trying to access other services. These problems are often the result of a wrong configuration or faulty equipment.

Apparently, TalkTalk customers with their own routers or different DNS settings than those pre-defined in the provider’s routers (such as Google DNS server 8.8.8.8 instead of 79.79.79.79 or 79.79.79.80) cannot utilize any TalkTalk HomeSafe settings, including Virus Alerts, Kid Safe filtering and Homework Time, but would not be affected by these kind of issues.

TalkTalk said the problem was fixed at around 11:30 BST, and the firm apologised to some of its customers who were “unable to access certain websites for a short period of time”, according to public statements from the ISP’s customer care team.

In this sense, MedUX statistics show that Facebook and Wikipedia contents were reachable, and Amazon and eBay websites were only partially affected, with an availability rate between 60% and 80%. However, other top Alexa sites, such as Reddit, Google, BBC, YouTube, and Twitter, showed availability rates well below 50%.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at hello@medux.com to find out further details about this analysis or about the impact of COVID-19 on the UK networks.

At MedUX, we continue to work hard to improve network performance, monitor customer experience and deliver innovative solutions to support the telecommunications industry. We have made ourselves available to all British and European operators as well as government agencies to support them and do our bit to improve communications critical to the functioning of society and the economy during these difficult times and this new era.

We have posted similar analysis for Italy, Spain and Germany, which act as a useful comparison to the United Kingdom. These reports offer insights into how the customer experience has been impacted in these markets by the coronavirus outbreak and work from home measures.

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