Possible Cause Revealed for Nationwide Mobile Phone Outage

Early Thursday, a significant mobile phone service disruption impacted users across the United States, even hindering some police departments from receiving 911 calls. AT&T appeared to be the most affected, with nearly 32,000 reported issues around 4:30 a.m., as per data from DownDetector, a platform that monitors outages by gathering status reports from various sources, including user-submitted errors.

T-Mobile and Verizon also experienced over 800 service disruptions, although a Verizon representative attributed this to users encountering difficulties when attempting to call individuals using other services. It took AT&T more than 13 hours to rectify the problem, which the company attributed to a system overload.

AT&T stated that the outage resulted from the application and execution of an incorrect process during network expansion, not a cyberattack. The company is continuing to evaluate the outage to ensure the delivery of the service that customers deserve. Smaller carriers, including Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk Wireless, and Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, also reported issues.

The disruption affected users from New York, Boston, and Atlanta on the East Coast to Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco, and even extended to Montreal in Canada. Several police stations across the country warned that people might be unable to call to report emergencies. However, many AT&T users reported being stuck in “SOS Mode,” where they could only reach emergency services.

An AT&T spokeswoman urged users to rely on Wi-Fi calling as the company worked urgently to restore service. By 11:30 a.m., the company announced that three-quarters of its network had been restored, and full service was restored by 2:15 p.m.

AT&T apologized for the inconvenience and assured that steps are being taken to prevent such an occurrence in the future. The Federal Communications Commission is investigating the incident, and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is working with AT&T to understand the cause. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are also investigating the AT&T outage, but they do not believe it is connected to a cyberattack.

Spokespersons for Verizon and T-Mobile stated that their networks were operating normally. They suggested that issues arose when customers tried to call or text those using AT&T. Many online users expressed their frustrations with the mobile phone companies amid the ongoing outages.