Sprint outage affects customers in some parts of U.S. for several hours

Software maintenance was to blame, spokeswoman says

Sprint on Monday experienced network outages affecting voice communications for several hours in various regions nationwide, the wireless carrier confirmed.

The problem stemmed from a software maintenance procedure started early Monday on the network that affected switch operations, meaning that calls to some Sprint customers could not be routed properly, said Crystal Davis, a Sprint spokeswoman.

The problem was completely corrected by 2:45 p.m. ET, she said. Sprint didn't say how many customers were affected, and Davis said it was too early to say how many switches were affected.

According to downdetector.com, a site that monitors networks in the U.S., most of the reported problems were voice outages, but some customers reported total blackouts. Davis said the problem was related only to voice, however.

The site indicated the problems started at 11:50 a.m. ET on Monday and continued until at least 3 p.m. ET. An outage map indicated the impact was mainly in the East, but also in major cities in the Midwest, Florida and California, among other regions. Davis said some customers in Washington D.C. were affected, while others in the D.C. area were not, indicating a sporadic pattern.

One Sprint customer, Tony Patti, told Computerworld he complained to Sprint earlier Monday and had since had phone service restored. Patti, who is CIO at S. Walter Packaging in Trenton, N.J., said the Sprint technician he spoke to indicated the company had received 350 customer support calls this morning.

Patti learned that the problem affected any phone which was ever on the Nextel network, even if the network had subsequently moved to Sprint years ago. "Apparently Sprint shut down the servers which controlled the Nextel network after shutting down the Nextel network itself two weeks ago," Patti said. Sprint unintentionally didn't take into consideration that turning off the Nextel servers would break the ability to use many Sprint phones, Patti added.

The Nextel network was discontinued June 30, and Sprint plans to use the 800 MHz spectrum for its LTE network, which rolled out today to more than 100 cities on other spectrum bands.

But Davis said Monday's outages were not related only to former Nextel customers, although some Nextel customers did receive an error message when they tried to call. She said the outage was unrelated to the Nextel shutdown.

SoftBank acquired 78% control of Sprint in a $21.6 billion deal finalized last Wednesday. The wireless carrier is the nation's third largest with 55 million customers.

This article, Sprint voice outage affects customers in parts of U.S. for several hours , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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