MWC: Verizon's network team isn't laughing about AT&T's outage

MWC: Verizon's network team isn't laughing about AT&T's outage
By: FierceWireless Posted On: February 29, 2024 View: 19

  • The full impact of the outage and costs that AT&T will incur are still unknown

  • AT&T said it would credit affected customers for the average cost of a full day of service

  • The outage lasted more than 10 hours for some customers 

MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS, BARCELONA – While the exact cause and full impact of AT&T’s network outage last week remain unknown, its peers certainly know the feeling.  

And it’s not a good one if you’re on the networks side of the business.  

“In general, we don’t wish outages on anybody,” said Verizon’s SVP of Network Planning Adam Koeppe on the sidelines of MWC. “That is never fun.”

The network outage at AT&T affected the customers of Verizon and T-Mobile as well; they couldn’t call AT&T customers and vice versa. Initially, it wasn’t even entirely clear whose networks were down. Once the dust settled, it became clear that it was AT&T’s fault.

AT&T said an initial review of the cause indicates it was due to the application and execution of “an incorrect process used while working to expand our network.”

Since other operators are expanding their networks as well and they all share some of the same suppliers and vendors, they have a vested interest in finding out the root cause.

“We also learn from each other,” said Joe Russo, EVP and president of Global Networks and Technology at Verizon.

Once there’s a better understanding of exactly what happened, there may be some level of sharing of information. Some of that happens in the supplier/partner community. If there’s a vulnerability in the system or software that they commonly share, they’re going to make others aware of it.

“That’s kind of normal practice, I would say, just to ensure that we serve our customers broadly across the industry,” he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon Central European Time (CET), the exact cause was not known beyond what AT&T said last week. “We are continuing our assessment to ensure we keep delivering the service that our customers deserve,” AT&T said. 

If it turns out to be something from a supplier that could also expose Verizon or anyone else, they would expect to be informed.

If not, “I would expect that I would never hear,” Russo said, noting that if that’s the case, it’s AT&T’s prerogative to keep the details within its own walls.

Of course, AT&T will need to abide by government reporting requirements. Any time 911 is impacted, for example, reports must be filed with the FCC.

Unhappy customers

How many customers leave AT&T because of the outage remains to be seen, but data from Opensignal shows some of them already decided to jump ship.

The outage lasted about 10 hours. Opensignal’s data shows how the impact was felt stronger on the East Coast because the outage occurred as people were starting their day; on the West Coast, most people were still asleep. Their data also shows more people in eastern states decided to switch to another service provider after the outage.

AT&T’s loss share was 12% higher the week after the outage compared to the week before. “You can clearly see the correlation in the loss share with the areas that were impacted,” Opensignal SVP Customer Solutions Iain Marsden told Fierce.

Similar switching patterns emerged for Rogers in Canada when it experienced a big network outage in 2022.  

Follow our coverage of Mobile World Congress 2024 in our dedicated channel here.

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