East coast iPhone 3G users report data service outages

Update ribbon (small)

11:04 am EST September 4, 2008 - After iPhone 3G customers were informed yesterday by AT&T at about 10:30 am yesterday that a problem affecting their 3G data use had been resolved, an AT&T spokesperson informed Reuters that it had resolved the issue at about noon yesterday.

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AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel told Reuters that the telco had traced the problem to "a routing issue in the way data is routed to and from wireless devices," though no further information on the cause was revealed.

Customer complaints to the AT&T Wireless support forum did taper off substantially after noon yesterday, though even as of this morning, they have not disappeared altogether. One customer posted a comment after noon to say his 3G signals returned at full strength, and later in the afternoon edited that comment to say it had disappeared again.

Throughout the service outage, several users reported seeing their 3G bars drop to 1 or 0, while several others reported their bars at 5 (full strength) even though they were unable to receive or transmit data using UMTS.

One customer wrote early this morning, "This is what confuses me. I'm in an area that according to the coverage map has complete 3G service, and at my home and other places I will see 5 bars of signal strength, so I figure everything is good. But then it starts fluctuating from 5 bars to 1 or 2 then back to 5 and maybe down again. It'll do this while stationary as well as moving it. I've seen this much more frequently recently while also dropping a call once in a while. I even started a call while showing 5 bars then while on the call it dropped to 1 bar and then the call dropped out, all the time I and the phone were stationary."


2:18 pm EDT September 3, 2008 - A rapidly growing number of iPhone 3G users are complaining to AT&T's customer service forums today of spotty or completely unavailable 3G data service on their devices, often with one or even zero bars reported.

Callers to AT&T's customer support lines were informed this morning of a major service issue affecting iPhone customers on the US East Coast. Some were apparently told the issue would take 24 to 48 hours to fix, although the carrier gave no word as to the cause of the problem, or where it was centered.

Reception issues appear to be centered around 3G service -- specifically, the ability for the handset to send and receive data using UMTS. Some customers say they were able to get some service once they set their phone back to EDGE mode (2G), though a few complained about having to do this manually. Why couldn't the phone know to choose whichever service was providing the most bars at any one time? the customer asked -- although not quite that politely.

The first reports of problems, although sporadic, came at about 1:00 pm EDT yesterday. Many of the users reporting problems were in the Boston area, though others hailed from New York City, Long Island, throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington, DC and surrounding cities. A few reports spread as far west as Chicago and St. Louis. The level of posted complaints rose sharply by this morning.

The weather does not appear to be to blame here, since reception issues appear to be weighted toward the northeast US, which has thus far escaped the brunt of recent storms.

This morning at about 10:30 am, an AT&T moderator told customers on those forums that the issue had been resolved, and advised those still having problems to contact customer support (1-800-331-0500). While some customers, including a few from Boston, reported restored service, others claim service is still poor, and BetaNews was able to confirm receptivity problems continued in the Baltimore area as late as 1:30 pm Wednesday.

One AT&T customer reported being advised by customer support that he would receive a $25 credit for unavailable service, but to call back the moment that service was restored in order that AT&T could effectively pro-rate it.

As one Boston customer wrote early this morning, "Service interruptions should be on the front page of the [AT&T] Web site. Bandwidth has been dropping and dropping, AT&T seems to have no trouble with the sudden influx of cash, but it cannot handle the sudden demand on services to match. Why are we paying more for 3G service when it is worse and slower than EDGE?"

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