BUSINESS + ECONOMY

AT&T customers report a massive outage, disrupting phone service across America

Feb 22, 2024, 8:00 AM | Updated: Feb 26, 2024, 12:08 pm

Image of an AT&T cell tower, as many AT&T customers report they are part of a massive outage....

Many AT&T customers are part of a massive outage. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — AT&T’s network went down for many of its customers across the United States Thursday morning, leaving customers unable to place calls, text or access the internet.

Although Verizon and T-Mobile customers reported some network outages, too, they appeared far less widespread. T-Mobile and Verizon 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.

More than 73,000 AT&T customers reported outages on digital-service tracking site DownDetector. That’s not a comprehensive number: It tracks only self-reported outages. Although outage reports fell a bit in the 5 am ET hour, they bounced back in the 7 am ET hour and continue to surge.

AT&T acknowledged that it has 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.”

The company said some parts of its network are beginning to recover but it did not have a timeframe for when its system would be fully restored. AT&T has been responding to customer complaints online, asking them to send direct messages to customer service.

Why AT&T went down

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

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, according to an industry source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There’s no indication that Thursday’s outage was the result of a cyberattack or other malicious activity, the industry source said.

Verizon believes the nationwide outage involving AT&T customers “is close to being resolved,” according to Richard Young, a Verizon spokesman.

Carriers are notoriously mum about why their networks go down. In the past, there have been construction accidents that have cut fiberoptic cables, incidents of sabotage or network updates filled with bugs that became difficult to roll back.

Local governments report outages

Several local governments said AT&T’s outage was disrupting its services.

San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management said in a statement on X Thursday morning that its 911 center 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.

“We are aware of an issue impacting AT&T wireless customers from making and receiving any phone calls (including to 911),” the department said in its post. “We are actively engaged and monitoring this.”

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. Cobb County, Georgia, said its 911 operations remained unaffected by the outage but noted customers may want to find alternate methods of reaching emergency services. Cabel County, West Virginia, said customers that couldn’t reach 911 could text to 911 as a last resort.

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

Verizon and T-Mobile say they’re unaffected

There also have been about 1,000 outages reported by both Verizon and T-Mobile customers Thursday morning, the DownDetector website indicates.

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

Verizon had a similar comment, saying it was unaffected by AT&T’s outage.

“Verizon’s network is operating normally,” Verizon told CNN in a statement. “Some customers experienced issues this morning when calling or texting with customers served by another carrier. We are continuing to monitor the situation.”

User reports on Downdetector about a T-Mobile outage, the company added, are “likely reflecting challenges our customers were having attempting to connect to users on other networks.”

Downdetector offers “real-time status information for over 12,000 services across 47 websites representing 47 countries,” the website says.

CNN’s Caroll Alvarado and John Miller contributed to this report.

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AT&T customers report a massive outage, disrupting phone service across America