The equipment stolen from a Vodafone facility might well be sold to an overseas telecommunications operator, according to sources close to the investigation quoted by the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

The paper said the Vodafone building in Basingstoke, southwest of London, was broken into with sledgehammers. Police said the people who did it may have been looking for customer information, but didn’t realize that the computers there were for managing the exchange.

The computers wouldn’t have any resale value on the street because they don’t resemble a personal computer or laptop. Rather, they are about the size of a dresser. Their function is to recognize the SIM cards when the phones contact the network and route the calls. That was one reason several hundred thousand customers lost their wireless service when the computers were stolen. Voice and text services were down for several hours on Monday.

The Mail says the technology is valuable, and there is a black market for such equipment. Sometimes it is sold in the developing world or in Eastern Europe.

On Vodafone's technical forums, the company says that voice services are largely restored. The administrator posting also says nothing like this has happened to Vodafone before. Vodafone is also reviewing its security measures to see how someone got in.

According to a statement from Vodafone, the break-in happened Monday morning in the early hours.

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