Phone and broadband outages

Young man looking in frustration at his mobile phone.

Communication providers are required by law to make sure their networks and services are resilient. However, you could still lose access to communication services due to a power cut or a problem affecting your service provider. Depending on the event, the services of all or some providers could be impacted so people might be affected in different ways. In the most serious circumstances, your mobile phone, landline and broadband connection could all be down, meaning you would not be able to use the phone or access the internet. This means you may not be able to contact emergency services on 999 during this time.

Who is most at risk?

Phone and broadband outages can affect anyone, but some people may face a higher risk of being impacted by an outage. Some of the groups who may be most at risk are:

  • People who live alone and may be unable to care for themselves.
  • People who rely on personal alarms (also known as telecare devices) or other connected health monitoring equipment, such as diabetes sensors.
  • People who are reliant on their landline to make phone calls, including to 999.

Actions to take before a phone and broadband outage

  • If your only way of making emergency calls is through a landline phone, or if you have a telecare kit connected to your landline, contact your landline provider to understand whether your phone will work during a phone outage caused by a power cut. If your landline will not work, your landline provider might offer you a free solution (such as a back-up battery unit), for a minimum of one hour, that would enable you to call the emergency services during a power cut if you needed to.
  • Think about how your neighbours and local community can help you in an emergency when there is a phone outage – for example, think about who could help drive you somewhere to get help if you need it urgently.
  • Speak to your device provider/manufacturer to understand how your personal alarm or diabetes sensor will function in the event that mobile or broadband connection was lost. 
  • Download or print out offline versions of maps in case you do not have access to live map-based mobile applications. To provide location services, your mobile smart phone uses GPS signal. This means your mobile may still be able to provide your location when not connected to the network. However, map-based mobile applications rely on internet connectivity to download the maps.
  • Keep a battery or wind-up radio (and spare batteries) at home. There might be updates communicated by radio during a power cut. A car radio will work, however in severe weather it might be safer to stay inside. Write down on paper the frequencies of any local or national radio stations you use for news updates. You could add these to your household emergency plan.

Actions to take during a phone and broadband outage

  • Where you can, check in on vulnerable neighbours and make sure they are aware of the situation and see if you can offer any assistance.
  • If you need to call the emergency services, you should try to use your mobile phone to call 999 or 112 if you have one. Even if there is a power cut or an issue with your mobile network, you might be able to receive overlapping signal from a nearby area or network that is unaffected – emergency calls automatically ‘roam’ onto all available networks. The 999 call handling system and the emergency authorities have the capability to continue operating throughout power cuts.

Further information and resources

Ofcom provides advice on resolving broadband and landline faults and problems.