AT&T said it had restored service after an outage left some customers unable to use their mobile phones to call 911 emergency dispatchers late Wednesday.
The outage lasted roughly an hour, but just how widespread it was remained unclear Thursday morning. At least one report indicated service was unavailable nationwide, while another outlet reported it was limited to “several states.”
AT&T declined to directly answer questions regarding how many users were affected. “Service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911,” a spokesperson said via email. “We apologize for those affected.”
Officials in Texas, Florida, Oregon and several other states told residents to call numbers other than 911 or to send texts to report emergencies.
IF YOU NEED TO TEXT 911: Type 911 in To: field. VERY IMPORTANT to text location next. Then who (police, fire, ambulance) you need— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) March 9, 2017
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also took to Twitter to call attention to the outage.
Occasional network failures are nothing new for mobile network operators, of course. T-Mobile suffered a nationwide failure of its LTE network in September, and AT&T’s prepaid brand Cricket Wireless offered $5 in credit to some users who suffered through an outage several weeks prior to that.
Sprint experienced "a major network outage" in the Northeast U.S. in March that affected 3G and 4G voice and data services in markets including Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Verizon was hit with a network failure in some Florida markets in June, and earlier this summer, T-Mobile confirmed that it suffered a network outage earlier this year that appeared to affect customers' ability across the country to make voice calls over Wi-Fi and LTE.
AT&T is widely considered the favorite to win the FirstNet contract, which would give it the right to provide the nation’s first broadband network dedicated to public safety. FirstNet hasn’t officially announced anything yet, but ultimately that would give AT&T a 25-year contract to use 20 megahertz of 700 MHz beachfront spectrum and $6.5 billion for designing and operating the nationwide network for federal, state and local authorities, with the right to sell excess capacity on the system.