Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Although some wireless telephone companies wish they could credibly deny it, a large number of customers of various wireless providers were unable to use their cellular devices Monday afternoon as T-Mobile’s network had widespread outages. That company wasn't the only one who had a problem. According to T-Mobile, wireless customers across the country were affected by their outages. This included Lexington County customers not only served by T-Mobile, but also several other major cellular service providers.
According to https://en.wikipedia.org, the big three carriers after many acquisitions and consolidations are T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. Sprint was the fourth big boy in the cellular game until it was acquired by T-Mobile on April 1, 2020. Each of the major three owns and operates its own national cellular network. They each also have “economy” brands they sell service through like Straight Talk, Cricket, and Boost Mobile.
Although each of the three has its own individual nationwide network of towers, because of acquisitions, most at times do interface, especially in more rural areas. Any carrier that buys bandwidth from T-Mobile or uses any part of its tower system was at times affected yesterday by T-Mobile’s problems.
Lexington County residents started complaining they couldn't make calls sometime during early to midafternoon Monday, June 15, 2020. In the case of several Verizon users, they reported when they tried to make a call, the phone never acted like it dialed and never made a sound. Those same people also reported that occasionally they would get a message saying, “All circuits are busy at the moment, please try your call later,” while others got nothing. For many, especially T-Mobile / Sprint users, this was widespread.
One Verizon customer who finally was able to contact The Ledger’s staff after 6:30 p.m. said that it was the strangest thing he’d ever experienced since owning a cellular device. “I’d dial the number and my screen looked like the call was going through. The person I was calling’s picture would pop up and the call timer would start but I heard no dial tone, nothing. Then I tried texting a friend from out of this area. I asked her to call me and her call came right through. I was also able to use Google Maps to find an address, but the voice service still wouldn’t work.
DownDetector (https://downdetector.com/), a nationwide service that tracks and reports user provided issues regarding outage data, said they had received more than 100,000 reports from T-Mobile customers by 3:00 p.m. eastern time. By 10:00 p.m., that number had dropped to about 14,000. DownDetector, which also provides a map that shows areas with outages, showed that the hardest hit areas of the country affected by the outage appeared to be the east coast.
At 4:18 p.m. eastern, a member of T-Mobile’s upper management tweeted, “Our engineers are working to resolve a voice and data issue that has been affecting customers around the country. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and hope to have this fixed shortly.”
DownDetector said they also had reports from Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and US Cellular customers about issues too. Those carriers had only a few thousand outage reports each compared to the 100,000 plus outage reports related to T-Mobile. Interestingly enough, at one-point Verizon management accused DownDetector of falsely reporting issues with their network when there were none. Remember, DownDetector gets their information from customers who are having outage issues so any false reporting would be a tough thing to do.
It seems by Wednesday morning all services were back up and running as they should. This problem does bring to light a frightening issues for most Americans. In the event of a natural disaster or national emergency, what would it take to cut off millions of Americans from being able to communicate with each other or emergency services just in the USA?