Thousands of AT&T Customers Report Phone Service Outages Across America

On Thursday morning, a large portion of AT&T’s customer base in the US experienced a network outage, rendering them unable to use the internet or make and receive calls.

Among the more than 74,000 reported outages as of 9 am, the top cities experiencing problems were Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, according to the tracking site Downdetector.

While some Verizon and T-Mobile customers also experienced outages, the companies stated that those affected were likely attempting to reach AT&T users. As of 7 am, 3,000 Verizon outages and 1,100 T-Mobile outages were reported by customers. Verizon told CNN, “Verizon’s network is operating normally.”

“Some customers experienced issues this morning when calling or texting with customers served by another carrier. We are continuing to monitor the situation.”

AT&T acknowledged the outages in a statement but did not specify why the system failed.

 “Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions this morning. We are working urgently to restore service to them. We encourage the use of Wi-Fi calling until service is restored.”

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The company did not provide a timeline for when the system would be completely restored, but it did say that portions of the network are starting to recover. AT&T has been directing people to contact customer service via direct message in their online responses to customer complaints.

According to CNN, an anonymous source in the industry said that the problem seems to be associated with the way cellular services hand off calls from one network to another, a process called peering. The source also stated there is currently no evidence to believe that a cyberattack caused the widespread outages.

A significant concern is that due to the outages, some individuals might be unable to reach emergency services by dialing 911.

On X, San Francisco’s Fire Department told users they were aware of the issue and the trouble it posed for people in crisis.

“We are aware of an issue impacting AT&T wireless customers from making and receiving any phone calls (including to 911). We are actively engaged and monitoring this. The San Francisco 911 center is still operational. If you are an AT&T customer and cannot get through to 911, then please try calling from a landline. If that is not an option, then please try to get ahold of a friend or family member who is a customer of a different carrier and ask them to call 911 on your behalf.”

Officials from emergency services nationwide, including Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, and Georgia, have stated that the outage is affecting their operations. Many of the departments advised relying on Wi-Fi for calls.

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On Thursday morning, members of the New York Police Department informed CNN that their AT&T phones could not make or receive calls or emails unless they were connected to Wi-Fi.

Officials from emergency services, such as those from The Massachusetts State Police, also told residents not to test their service by placing 911 calls.

“Many 911 centers in the state are getting flooded w/ calls from people trying to see if 911 works from their cell phone. Please do not do this. If you can successfully place a non-emergency call to another number via your cell service, then your 911 service will also work.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens released a statement saying the city is gathering more information to address the outages adequately.

“Atlanta’s e-911 is able to receive inbound and make outbound calls. We have received calls from AT&T customers that their cellular phones are in SOS mode.”

The company’s FirstNet network is still up and running, according to an AT&T representative. As a more robust network than AT&T’s commercial network, FirstNet offers coverage for police, fire departments, and first responders during national disasters.

Verizon, AT&T To Launch 5G Rollout On Jan. 19 Following Delay

Verizon and AT&T will launch an upgraded 5G service on Jan. 19 following a delay at the request of Transportation Secretary Peter Buttigieg. The carriers had faced pressure from the White House and airlines over fears that the C-band transmissions would disrupt flights.

Verizon and AT&T — headed by CEOs Hans Vestberg and John Stankey, respectively — had previously rejected the request for postponement, saying that they were “willing to accept some temporary measures” over the next six months to limit services around certain airports and runways.

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Airlines asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay the launching, citing concerns that the 5G launch would interfere with the pilots and their aircraft electronics. Airlines For America (A4A) went into more details about the possible problems, noting the 5G spectrum is adjacent to the frequencies utilized by an aircraft’s radio altimeters. A4A also estimated that disruptions would cost passengers $1.3 billion in forms of lost time, productivity, and wages.

The service had been set to launch on Jan. 5. “We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues,” AT&T said in a statement. The company also reiterated their plan to act carefully around specific airports in order to provide the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) more time to study potential affects, as well as to locate and fix any issues.

In their own statement, Verizon said that the delay helps to ensure the certainty of delivering the 5G network this month. An official told CNN that sides had been “working frantically” to come to an agreement, and that the result is “good in the interim.”

Buttigeig, along with FAA head Steve Dickerson, sent the joint request to Stankey and Vestberg on Dec. 31, asking for activation delays near an unknown number of “priority airports.” Carrier executives had concerns on their side as well, worrying that further 5G postponements would “harm customers.”

Executives added that agreeing to the request would not only be “unprecedented and unwarranted circumvention,” but an “abdication of the operating control” that’s required to control communications networks. Both companies had previously accepted a one-month delay, as the activation was initially planned for December.

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Verizon explains that the launch will allow more than 100 million people in 1,700 U.S. cities to get “Ultra Wideband” 5G service – at the cost of $80 a month. The carrier states that Ultra Wideband is 10x faster than their 4G LTE and allows download speeds up to one gigabit per second.

Last year, Verizon doubled its C-Band spectrum in an auction — adding between 140 to 200 MHz in every available market — at the cost of $52.9 billion dollars. AT&T didn’t hold back their wallet, either. The carrier spent $23 billion on spectrum purchases, as well as an additional $6 to $8 billion in deployment costs.

The spectrum expansions are crucial for both carriers in the fight for subscribers. T-Mobile has quickly supplemented itself with the two, as it added a total of 673,000 postpaid phone customers during the third quarter of 2021 – higher than Verizon (429,000) though lower than AT&T (928,000). Bloomberg noted T-Mobile has also taken a large lead in mid-band 5G services.