T-Mobile explains BlackBerry outage, says it's fixed

Users say explanation is wrong, and data service works only using Wi-Fi, however

T-Mobile USA issued an explanation for the BlackBerry data outage affecting some nationwide users Monday and Tuesday, saying it related only to Wi-Fi and not T-Mobile's network, directly contradicting what some users reported.

A company spokeswoman said via an e-mail late on Wednesday that the outage impacted some customers across all North America carriers, not just T-Mobile, and that RIM technical support teams had resolved the matter.

"This particular issue occurred only when customers attempted to send/receive data, browse the Web or send PIN-to-PIN (Peronal Identification Number) messages via Wi-Fi," she said. "Services over T-Mobile's network were operational throughout this time. T-Mobile instructed customers to turn off Wi-Fi and connect via our network."

However, BlackBerryforum.com moderator Joe Sanders heard from several BlackBerry users affected by the outage, and told Computerworld that T-Mobile's explanation of the problem was "almost opposite" of what happened.

Sanders said that Wi-Fi-enabled BlackBerry devices, including his BlackBerry Storm, didn't work for data transmissions on various carriers' networks for some users for up to 24 hours on Monday and Tuesday but did mostly work on Wi-Fi.

Voice and text services were not affected, he said. Sanders posted his explanation of the problem on the Data Outages forum on Monday afternoon.

When asked today about the contradiction with what Sanders has found, T-Mobile's spokeswoman referred further inquiries to Research in Motion Ltd., but RIM did not respond, and has not responded to media inquiries since the start of the event.

Teresa Boardman, a realtor, concurred with Sanders' explanation of the problem, saying she lost data service over T-Mobile's network for 24 hours from late Monday to late Tuesday, but was able to use Wi-Fi for part of that time.

"I didn't lose business, but it made my life a living hell," Boardman said via e-mail. "My clients are used to having their e-mails answered."

She said she uses a BlackBerry Bold and has been a user of various BlackBerry devices since 2003. "I rely on the thing and I do get stressed out when it doesn't work," she said. "I have to say that .. I can't think of any device that I own that I get such wonderful support for. Outages used to be few and far between."

Some users in the U.K., and on other carriers in the U.S. and Canada, reported problems on Monday and Tuesday as well.

RIM has been criticized for not communicating information about outages, but did issue a full explanation for a Dec. 22, 2009 outage due to a BlackBerry Messenger update.

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 e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile access in Computerworld's Mobile Access Knowledge Center.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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