Large portions of Norway were without mobile (cell) phone service on Monday afternoon, after two accidents occurring within eight minutes of each other disrupted telecoms firm Telenor’s fiber network. Company officials insisted on national TV that sabotage was not involved.
The first accident occurred when earthmoving equipment working on a new portion of the E6 highway through Gudbrandsdalen pulled down a cable in Lillehammer, Oppland County. Just minutes later, unusually strong winds knocked down a tree many miles away in Lørenskog, Akershus County.
The two accidents were seemingly minor, but managed to knock out service for hundreds of thousands of Telenor customers in Hedmark and Oppland counties. Mobile phone coverage was also affected in Møre og Romsdal, Nordland and even as far north as Troms and Finnmark.
The breakdown in telephone communications was called extremely serious by Telenor itself. “This was maximum misfortune and not something I can remember having experienced before,” Per A Meling of Telenor told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It’s incredibly seldom that two cable breaks like this can happen at the same time. We must evaluate whether we need a back-up for our back-up.”
He stressed that Telenor did not suspect that any sabotage was involved, rather that it was simply the result of two accidents happening at the same time. Telenor’s national and regional networks have been considerably upgraded in recent years and fiber cables are laid in rings to prevent any breakage from disrupting the entire network. It proved insufficient on Monday.
Telephone service was mostly up and running again by early evening, but service in Hedmark and Oppland remained disrupted through much of Monday night.
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