What3words to help Openreach pinpoint damage to London network

Damage to broadband cabinets, telephone poles and overhead wires across London can now be reported to Openreach using precise locations from what3words.

What3words grids the whole Earth into three metre squares, with each square given unique words to make it easier to pinpoint an exact location. For example, in London, the London Eye is recorded as ‘bend.mouse.assume’, Kings Cross Station is ‘dices.mixer.pushed’ and the British Museum is ‘slam.pilots.castle’.

Reporting the exact location of damage to Openreach’s nationwide phone and broadband network can sometimes prove difficult, particularly if the damage is in a rural or remote location or situated between villages or local landmarks.

Openreach’s engineers and customer-facing teams are able to use what3words, and members of the public can report vandalism, damaged equipment or safety concerns by visiting Openreach’s website, contacting Openreach’s Twitter or Facebook teams or by calling 0800 023 2023 (Option 1).

Dave Kelly, Openreach’s Director of Operations for the South East and London said: “This should make a huge difference to how safety issues and damage to our network are reported to us and how easy they are to find quickly. We have the largest phone and broadband network in the UK, used by hundreds of different service providers, covering everything from city centres to the most rural and remote locations. Many of our poles and overhead wires are in areas with no easily identifiable features nearby, so it can be tricky for people to report exactly which pole has been knocked over or which overhead wire is damaged.

“People can report damage to our network directly to us, but any faults with home or business connections should still be directed to their service provider (the company they pay their bill to) as they can easily distinguish between problems affecting our network and all the common issues that might arise inside a home or business – for example faulty routers, hubs and WiFi extenders.

“We’ve seen what3words used successfully by emergency services, where the ability for people to report the precise location of an incident has literally saved lives. And whilst a damaged pole or cabinet might not seem like a case of life or death, safety of the public and our people is hugely important to us, and our network is a key part of London infrastructure, keeping homes, businesses and health/emergency services connected.

“To use what3words, you simply need to visit the app or website and make a note of the three words (e.g. darling.lion.race) that pinpoint your chosen location. When you speak with Openreach, just let us know these three words, and we’ll take care of the rest.”

Across the UK, Openreach looks after 192 million kilometres of network cable, 110,000 green cabinets, and 4.9 million telephone poles and junction boxes.

In a typical year, more than 9.9 million engineering jobs are carried out by the company’s 25,000 engineers, many of them in extremely remote and rural locations.

Openreach plays an important role across Greater London. More than 4,700 of our people live and work here and 247 new jobs in the region were announced in December 2020.