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Major cellular outage hits US after AT&T, other networks go down

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Washington DC | February 23, 2024 2:54:54 AM IST
A massive outage was reported in the United States on Thursday (local time), after AT&T's network went down for many of its customers across the country, leaving customers unable to place calls, text or access the internet, CNN reported.

Later in the day, AT&T said that three-quarters of its disrupted network had been restored and it is working to quickly restore the services of all remaining users.

Although Verizon and T-Mobile customers also reported some network outages, those appeared far less widespread. These two firms said their networks were unaffected by AT&T's service outage and customers reporting outages may have been unable to reach customers who use AT&T.

On Thursday morning, more than 74,000 AT&T customers reported outages on digital-service tracking site DownDetector, with service disruptions beginning around 4 am ET (local time), as reported by CNN.

AT&T acknowledged that it had a widespread outage but did not provide a reason for the system failure.

"Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions this morning. We are working urgently to restore service to them," AT&T said in a statement. "We encourage the use of Wi-Fi calling until service is restored."

By late morning, AT&T said most of its network was back online.

"Our network teams took immediate action and so far, three-quarters of our network has been restored," the company said. "We are working as quickly as possible to restore service to remaining customers."

Although AT&T provided no official reason for the outage, the issue appears to be related to how cellular services hand off calls from one network to the next, a process known as 'peering', CNN reported, citing an industry source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But, there is no indication that Thursday's outage was the result of a cyberattack or other malicious activity, the industry source said.

As a result of this massive outage, AT&T's stock fell more than 2 per cent on Thursday, on a day when the market was rocketing higher.

AT&T has encountered sporadic outages over the past few days, including a temporary 911 outage in some parts of the south-eastern United States. Although outages happen from time to time, nationwide, prolonged outages are exceedingly rare.

However, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is "working closely with AT&T to understand the cause of the outage and its impacts, and stand[s] ready to offer any assistance needed," says Eric Goldstein, the agency's executive assistant director for cybersecurity.

Several local governments also said that AT&T's outage was disrupting their services.

San Francisco's Department of Emergency Management said in a statement on X Thursday morning that its 911 centre remained operational, but many AT&T customers were unable to reach the emergency line because of the outage. It suggested people call from a landline or find someone with a rival's service to dial 911.

The Fire Department in Upper Arlington, Ohio, said the AT&T outage was affecting its fire alarms. St. Joseph County, Michigan, advised residents to use Wi-Fi to place 911 calls if they can't reach 911 on AT&T's network

New York Police Department officials told CNN that they were not able to make calls or utilise emails on AT&T phones Thursday morning unless they were connected to Wi-Fi.

Meanwhile, around 1,000 outages were reported by both Verizon and T-Mobile customers, according to DownDetectot website, the two telecom firms said that they are "unaffected."

"We did not experience an outage," T-Mobile said in a statement. "Our network is operating normally."

"Verizon's network is operating normally," Verizon said. "Some customers experienced issues this morning when calling or texting with customers served by another carrier. We are continuing to monitor the situation."

According to CNN, it is almost certain, that the Federal Communications Commission will investigate this week's incident, multiple experts said.

The FCC requires carriers to report information linked to network disruptions. Fines may be possible in connection with 911 outages, although they aren't a certainty, said Blair Levin, a telecom policy analyst and another former FCC official. (ANI)

 
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