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AT&T Wireless subscribers in the US can’t make, receive calls

A pedestrian uses a smartphone in New York.  (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)
By Jillian Deutsch </p><p>and Todd Shields Washington Post

AT&T Inc. is responding to widespread disruptions to its mobile service across the U.S. that had tens of thousands of customers complaining that they couldn’t make or receive calls.

“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,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said in a statement on Thursday.

Wireless phone service customers from multiple carriers started reporting problems in the early hours of the New York morning. Complaints of disruptions have continued to rise, with AT&T leading the pack with more than 70,000 reports of problems on service-tracking website Downdetector. AT&T shares were down as much as 3.4%.

With about 87 million subscribers, AT&T is the third-largest U.S. retail wireless carrier, behind Verizon Communications Inc. and T-Mobile U.S. Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Verizon’s network remained fully operational, the company said on Thursday.

The outage is already upending communications with emergency responders in major cities. San Francisco’s fire department made a plea on social media for AT&T customers to use landlines to call 911 for emergencies. Police at the University of Texas made a similar ask. Local media in Atlanta reported that police were having trouble using city phones early Thursday, although 911 services remained operational.

Earlier this week, Atlanta’s police department had also reported difficulties with its 911 system due to an “AT&T technical issue, impacting cities within the southeast region.” It was unclear whether Thursday’s outage was related.

It also wasn’t immediately clear how many wireless customers were affected by AT&T’s outage. Downdetector’s estimates represent reports submitted to the website, so the total number of customers affected is likely higher than the 71,000 reported on the site.

AT&T outages were reported from cities including New York, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Dallas. Customer service representatives for the company said on X that they had confirmed “an active nationwide outage.” The cause of the hourslong disruption is not clear.

T-Mobile said in a statement that its network was operating normally and that the rise on Downdetector was “likely reflecting challenges our customers were having attempting to connect to users on other networks.” Verizon also said its network was operating normally.

An employee of AT&T’s security team told a Bloomberg reporter at the telecom giant’s corporate headquarters in Dallas Thursday morning that there had been a network-wide outage that he believed had been resolved. The employee declined to give his name, saying he was not authorized to speak with the news media.

After the reporter showed the security officer an AT&T cellphone that was still without service at around 8:20 a.m. local time, the officer said he would check whether there was someone in the office who could answer questions about the outage. He returned soon after that and said there was no one available, but wrote down the reporter’s email and phone number, saying someone would be in touch.

It wouldn’t be the first time that AT&T has suffered a widespread outage. In 2008, the company dealt with an extensive wireless internet failure in the U.S. Northeast. In that incident, a glitch in the way the company’s network was routing traffic was identified as the culprit and the service failure was relatively short-lived. In 2020, AT&T internet and phone service was knocked out in Nashville, Tennessee, by an explosion in the city’s downtown area.

T-Mobile also has been hit with widespread outages, including one last February and another in 2020 that prompted the FCC to launch a probe.