T-Mobile USA said "service disruptions" last night rendered inoperable voice and data access for roughly 1.7 million of the carrier's customers in locations across the country.
In a series of posts to its support website, T-Mobile detailed its reactions to the dramatic outage that, according to user complaints collected by CNET and other outlets, apparently stretched from coast to coast. "T-Mobile customers may be experiencing service disruptions impacting voice and data," the company said in a statement yesterday afternoon. "Our rapid response teams have been mobilized to restore service as quickly as possible. We will provide updates as more information is available."
As the evening wore on, T-Mobile issued a series of updates on the situation: "We're making good progress restoring voice and messaging service to affected customers," a T-Mobile representative told CNET at around 9:30 p.m. EST last night.
Finally, at around 1:30 a.m. EST this morning, T-Mobile said it had restored service to affected customers. "About five percent of our customers across various geographies were affected for much of Tuesday evening, and by late Tuesday PST their service was restored," the carrier said.
Later, the carrier provided a brief explanation: "After investigating the cause, we have determined that a backend system software error had generated abnormal congestion on the network. T-Mobile has since implemented additional measures to help prevent this from happening in the future. We again apologize to those customers who were affected and may have been inconvenienced."
T-Mobile is not the first company to suffer service problems. For example, users of Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices have been hit with several outages over the year, AT&T reported brief EDGE disruptions in 2007 and Verizon's wireline business was fined $250,000 by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission for what the PUC described as slow repairs following service disruptions caused by severe weather in at least two Ohio communities last year.
However, yesterday's incident represents yet another black eye for T-Mobile, the nation's fourth largest wireless carrier with around 33.5 million customers; the operator is still reeling from the public relations fallout from prolonged troubles with its Sidekick data service. Last month, T-Mobile reported that glitches with its Microsoft-powered Sidekick data service erased information from a select group of users' devices, though Microsoft said it likely will be able to recover most of the data.
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Article updated Nov. 5 to include T-Mobile's statement on the reason behind the outage.