Wal-Mart's iPhone launch meets widespread outage

Yesterday, discount retailer Wal-Mart began selling the iPhone 3G, and as if to welcome customers to their new devices, AT&T suffered a substantial network outage.

AT&T representative Meghan Roskopf told the Chicago Tribune that at 9:30 am Eastern Time, only a matter of hours after Wal-Mart locations opened for business, the Bloomfield, Michigan AT&T facility experienced a power outage, causing "intermittent disruption of mobile services for customers in some Midwest states."

AT&T went on to say, "Backup power has subsequently been restored, and AT&T technicians currently are working to fully restore the impacted equipment.  We will provide more information as soon as it becomes available."

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Users from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin complained of lost service on AT&T's support forum the most, though some from as far as Florida and Washington reported issues. One such user reported, "I did get a Customer Service tech at around 12:30 pm -- who told me there was a system outage in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, parts of Pennsylvania, parts of Delaware...and I lost track after that. Said that they would have an 'update' within 24 hours --   not that the service would be repaired -- but that there would be a status update in 24 hours!"

The service troubles have been attributed to harsh weather in the region over the last week. Nearly 400,000 in Michigan remain without electricity due to high winds and flooding.

Some users believe continuing problems with AT&T's 3G network could signify a greater problem at hand.

One irate forum poster said, "I have been dealing with cellular carriers on the real estate side for the last 15 years, and if 45 mph winds and some moderate flooding cause outages from Boston to LA, as has been reported in these forums, there's a bigger issue here than we're experiencing today. What happens when we have severe summer flooding, winter ice storms, blizzards, and the kind of severe weather that we're all used to this time of year?"

AT&T's latest troubles come right in time with Wal-Mart's iPhone "sale," during which the 8 GB model was discounted by an astounding $2; and AT&T itself began selling refurbished iPhones starting at $99.

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