Thousands of customers found themselves without cell phone service on Thursday.

According to the tracking site, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers have been experiencing outages. AT&T alone experienced 71 thousand outages, mainly in Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.

Meanwhile, 11 hundred outages have been reported for T-Mobile and three thousand for Verizon.

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

An extensive network outage lasting nearly 12 hours disrupted the communication services of tens of thousands of Americans on Thursday, as AT&T struggled to restore phone calls, text messages, and internet access. The incident prompted concerns over the vulnerability of major cell networks and their susceptibility to malicious activities, although there is presently no evidence indicating a deliberate attack.

Who Experienced The Impact?

During the outage, emergency services, including 911 lines, were affected, with at least one police department reporting an inundation of calls from individuals testing the functionality of their cell phones. The reliance on mobile devices for work, family communication, internet access, and crucial tasks such as emergency calls underscored the severity of the disruption.

Over 70,000 AT&T customers reported issues on Thursday, as documented on the digital-service tracking site DownDetector. Although Verizon and T-Mobile remained unaffected, AT&T users experienced difficulties throughout the day. AT&T’s wireless service was eventually fully restored by 3 pm ET, accompanied by a sincere apology to customers.

What Was The Reason Behind The Disruption?

Several local governments reported disruptions caused by the outage, emphasizing the inability of AT&T customers to reach emergency services. Notably, the company’s FirstNet network, designed for first responders, remained operational despite the commercial network outage.

AT&T attributed the incident to an incorrect process during network expansion, dispelling concerns of a cyberattack.

How Did Government Officials Weigh In On The Incident?

Federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security, initiated investigations. The FCC assured coordination with AT&T and public safety authorities, while the FBI expressed readiness to respond if malicious activity was identified.

The White House acknowledged ongoing investigations and emphasized the collaborative effort to uncover the truth behind the outage.

What Actions Did AT&T Take In Response To The Situation?

AT&T faced criticism on social media for its lack of transparency and communication during the disruption, prompting customer inquiries and concerns.

What Implications Does This Have For The Security Of Cellular Networks in the United States?

Despite the absence of evidence pointing to a cyberattack, questions lingered about the security of U.S. cell networks. Industry experts suggested that the issue might be related to peering, the process of transferring calls between networks, but a conclusive assessment was pending further investigation.

AT&T’s share price experienced a decline of over 2% on the day of the outage, coinciding with record highs in the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average. The incident raised broader considerations about the robustness and security of cellular infrastructure in the United States.

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