Is the phone in SOS mode? Widespread outages hit AT&T and others

AT&T said Thursday that its wireless network is back after an outage Cell phone service is down to its users across the US for hours.

“We have restored wireless service to all of our affected customers,” the Dallas-based company said in a statement posted on its website Thursday afternoon. “We sincerely apologize to them.”

Outage tracker Downdetector noted that the outages, which began around 3:30 a.m. ET, have reported 73,000 incidents. AT&T reported more than 58,000 outages as of noon ET in locations including Houston, Atlanta and Chicago. The carrier is the country's largest with over 240 million subscribers.

By 3:30 p.m. ET, there were fewer than 3,000 reports.

Cricket Wireless, owned by AT&T, had more than 9,000 outages at one point, but reports emerged later in the afternoon. Users of other carriers, including Verizon and T-Mobile, also reported problems, but those companies said their networks were operating normally and that the problems were likely coming from customers trying to connect to AT&T users.

Some iPhone users have seen SOS messages displayed in the status bar on their cell phones. This message indicates that the device is having trouble connecting to their cellular provider's network, but it can make emergency calls through other carrier networks, according to Apple Support.

So far, no reason has been given for the outage. But Lee McKnight, an associate professor at the iSchool at Syracuse University, cited cloud misconfiguration or human error as the cause of the outage.

“The possible but far less likely outcome is a malicious hack of ATT's network, but the widespread outages across the country suggest something more fundamental,” McKnight said in an emailed statement.

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The Federal Communications Commission contacted AT&T about the outage and the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are also looking into it, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

The FBI admitted to being in contact with AT&T. “If we become aware of any malicious activity, we will respond accordingly,” the company said.

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Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.

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