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AT&T service ‘fully restored’ after massive outage — here’s what we know

It wasn't a cyberattack

AT&T
(Image: © Shutterstock)

AT&T customers woke up Thursday morning to realize they couldn’t make any phone calls. More than 70,000 customers were without cellular service and internet, according to outrage report website Downdetector — and it continued well on throughout most of the late morning on the east coast. Most of the outages were reported by customers located in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles.

In am earlier message on its site, AT&T said that “some customers in your area are having trouble making or receiving calls. As a result, we are experiencing long hold times. We apologize for this inconvenience and we are working to resolve this issue.”

It was also believed that Verizon and T-Mobile customers were reporting service outages as well through Downdetector, but it appears as though it wasn't because of their service. Rather, their customers were trying to reach those on AT&T. 

Fortunately, AT&T's network outage wasn't an extended one. By the late afternoon, the company released a statement saying that its service was fully restored. Here's what happened.

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AT&T outage downdetector.

(Image credit: Downndetector)

According to Downdetector, a website where customers can report service outages, over 70,000 AT&T outages were reported so far Thursday morning. The first crop of reports came in at around 4:00 a.m. and increased substantially by the early morning.

Cricket Wireless Downdetector outage.

(Image credit: Downdetector)

Not surprisingly, Cricket Wireless had the second most outage reports with nearly 13,500 customers without service at around 8:00 a.m. ET according to Downdetector.  Cricket is a prepaid wireless carrier owned and operates under AT&T.

Despite reports of disruptions from fewer customers than AT&T, Verizon posted a statement on its site saying the following:

"Verizon's network remains fully operational. Some customers may have experienced issues this morning when calling or texting those served by another carrier. Our network continues to function normally."

As of 10:50 a.m. ET, there were 2,500+ reports of Verizon Wireless service disruptions through tracking website Downdetector. However, that figure is starting to trend downward after hitting a peak of 4,219 at 8:05 a.m. ET.

AT&T outage Twitter screenshot.

(Image credit: X)

On X, formerly Twitter, AT&T has been replying to messages from customers about their service disruptions with the company posting the following:

"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."

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Many local emergency services have been inundated by callers about the outage, which is preventing those affected devices from placing phone calls to 911. The San Francisco Fire Department, for example, are telling AT&T customers to use a landline to reach 911 for emergency.

AT&T is still investigating the cause of the service disruption, but it doesn't appear to have an official reason just yet. Although, the problem could somehow be related to a common cellular service called peering according to an industry source who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity. It's the process where cell service is handed off from one carrier to another, which could also explain why customers on other carriers are reporting outages.

Consumer Cellular Downdetector outage.

(Image credit: Downdetector)

MVNOs such as Consumer Cellular and Straight Talk are showing a slight increase in reported outage as of 11:41 a.m. ET. Downdetector is showing this rise with Consumer Cellular after hitting a peak of 2,458 reports at 9:26 a.m. ET.

Verizon Downdetector outage.

(Image credit: Downdetector)

At roughly the same time AT&T customers were first reporting outages early Thursday morning, Verizon customers were also reporting service disruptions. While it was nowhere as many people, it did hit a peak of 4,219 reports at around 8:00 a.m. ET through Downdetector. That has gone down significantly since then, with reports at about 2,365 most recently.

A screenshot showing how to enable Wi-Fi calling on Android

(Image credit: Future)

In an attempt to keep customers connected, AT&T is encouraging customers who are affected by the service disruption to lean on Wi-Fi calling until service is restored. We've detailed how to enable Wi-Fi calling on iPhone and Android, which uses your home's Wi-Fi network to route phone calls and text messages.

Trying to uncover the issue that caused these network outages will be the next according to multiple experts that spoke to CNN. This would be carried out by the FCC because the agency requires wireless carriers to provide reports that are linked to service disruptions.

"The carriers are required to report their outage numbers over time, and the commission can track the number of consumers and cell sites down and things like that," said a former FCC official that spoke with CNN.

It's still unclear if the disruption was caused by a cyberattack or something else.

AT&T outage downdetector.

(Image credit: Downdetector)

It appears that outages for AT&T are starting to dwindle at a rapid rate, with roughly 18,155 reports in the latest report on Downdetector at 12:33 p.m. ET. The first set of reported outages happened in the earlier hours at around 3:00 a.m. and peaking at 9:00 a.m. ET with over 70,000 reports.

Even though Verizon and T-Mobile customers reported outages that coincided with reports from AT&T customers on Downdetector, it's worth pointing out this could be the result of these Verizon/T-Mobile customers trying to reach AT&T customers who were without service due to the disruption.

The headquarters of T-Mobile USA in Bellevue, Washington.

(Image credit: VDB Photos/Shutterstock)

Similar to Verizon, T-Mobile also made a statement on the nationwide network issues explaining that it did not experience an outage. But rather the reports on Downdetector is presumably due to T-Mobile customers attempting to connect with other users on other networks. As it currently stands, T-Mobile's network is operating normally.

Cancel AT&T search volume via Google Trends.

(Image credit: Google Trends)

Service disruptions aren't new, but when they happen for an extended period of time, customers can often express their disappointment in many ways. One of them would be to cancel the service.

Google Trends show that there was a spike in the search term 'cancel AT&T' at around 4:00 a.m. ET, which coincides with the start of the outage. It's been up and down throughout the day, but it's unclear if AT&T will somehow reimburse its customers for the inconvenience. 

AT&T confirms service has been restored

AT&T logo

(Image credit: Lester Balajadia/Shutterstock)

AT&T has confirmed through a statement that its wireless service has been restored, while also apologizing to the customers who were affected by the disruption.

"We have restored wireless service to all our affected customers. We sincerely apologize to them," said AT&T in its statement. "Keeping our customers connected remains our top priority, and we are taking steps to ensure our customers do not experience this again in the future."

Now that service has been fully restored, the next step is to investigate what caused the problem. The Federal Communications Commission also confirmed that it will also investigate the outage.

AT&T building

(Image credit: AT&T)

After an investigation, AT&T says that yesterday's outage was the result of a self-inflicted error when expanding its network, and not a cyberattack, as some had feared. 

AT&T issued a short statement explaining: “Based on our initial review, we believe that today's outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyber attack.”