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AT&T Service DOWN in Reston, VA for a Week and Counting…

The Reston Town Center in Reston, VA is a very upscale shopping and business area located near Dulles Airport about 20 miles outside of our nation’s capital. The mall is home to a number of high end stores including Apple, Bebe, Banana Republic, and many fine resturaunts. In addition, the area is home to numerous fortune 500 businesses including Microsoft, Oracle, Google Sallie Mae, Fannie Mae, and many more. And the town center is also home to a number of 20+ story high rise condo’s priced in the million dollar and up range.

Certainly the Reston Town Center is not a low population, far out suburb. This is a major metropolitan city on its own.

Yet for a week now AT&T has had zero coverage on its 3G network. No voice. No voicemail. No data. Period. My wife noticed it first (around 11/3) as she works in the area every day. Then I noticed it a couple of days later on Sunday 11/8 when I went to a store in the area. I tried to use data to find the phone number of my dog’s vet. I couldn’t. So I tried calling my wife. Nothing. The phone (an iPhone) showed 5 bars but it had no ability to do anything on the network.

Then I noticed that the bars would drop to zero and come back with the E (edge) symbol. Then it would go to NO SERVICE. And then a minute later back to 3G but still no ability to use the phone. Nothing including turning off the phone would help.

On Tuesday I was at the  town center and again having issues so I went to the Apple Store to test one of their phones in the store. Before I could even get to a phone, the Apple Store Greeter guy asked if I needed any help. I explained the issue and he immediately said they were aware of the issue with AT&T. No one in the Apple Store could use the network or was able to make calls at that location! Wow. Bad.

I happen to know someone who works for AT&T and I sent him some info about the issue and he said he escalated it internally. But days have gone by and still no resolution. So today, about a week after it seems to have started (according to the report from AT&T which has notes of first reports on 11/7) I went to the AT&T store at the Reston Town Center. The guy at the counter immediately acknowledged the issue and looked up the problem on an internal status website. He confirmed that it was listed as an issue on his site and had been a problem for over a week even though the status on his site said it was first reported on 11/11 (yesterday). He then told me to contact customer service to report the issue (why did they not report it?).

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So I went home and called AT&T customer service (I could not call them from the town center, that was for sure) and found that they had the issue listed as “closed”! They were very nice and promised to re-open the issue. Then the call center person told me to restart my phone and even remove my SIM daily until the problem was fixed. What this hoo haa had to do with the tower at the town center being down I have no idea. Yes, I tried it. No it did nothing.

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One interesting thing is that she did mention a new cell tower was going up about 3 miles from that area. Coupled with this report from another site, I wonder if the behavior I am seeing at the town center is equipment failure or simply an overloaded cell. Seems that New York people see this odd switching between 3G and E constantly and it is well known that AT&T is severely overloaded in NYC. Who knows.

But I guess in the end I got $70 out of Ma Bell and that made me feel a little better. But I wonder how long it will take the largest cellular company in the United States of America to be able to provide voice service for their customers who pay them north of $150 a month to place and receive phone calls?

UPDATE 11/13/2009: Was back in the area today in the morning around 9:30am. Everything looked like it was working. Called a few people on the drive up and the call lasted all the way through the trouble area. Data was working too. Went to lunch at the town center around 11:45am and everything still worked great. Maybe AT&T had actually solved the issue. My AT&T contact even said that he had confirmed the issue was solved and they thought he (and I) were crazy to be still reporting the issue.

At 12:30pm everything came to a halt just like it has everyday for the last week+. My phone said NO SERVICE. I could not make calls. No data. Nothing. I switched to EDGE and was able to make a call and leave a vmail for about 45 seconds before I was dropped. And this call was made while sitting in the Barnes and Noble parking lot in my Jeep Wrangler with the engine off. No reception issues there, right?

Some screenshots below if it could possibly get AT&T to admit that maybe, just maybe, the problem may not yet be solved. One could only hope. Check out the one shot with the small circle instead of 3G or E (edge)…that is the GPRS network symbol. Man, that is grim. Makes me wonder why AT&T is so upset with Verizon that they are suing them about their latest TV ads. If Verizon has that much larger of a 3G network and if it even works half as good as the small footprint of 3G that AT&T has, Verizon should be tooting their own horn. You betcha.

7 comments

7 Comments so far

  1. Henry November 13th, 2009 1:48 pm

    Thats odd. I live in great falls and I have not been having any issues…..It must be some specific base station?

  2. Carl Hutzler November 13th, 2009 1:50 pm

    It is a local issue. The cell site that covers the Reston Town Center has been having major issues for over a week now. If you drive north or south of the town center a mile or so, everything is back to working. But if you work, shop, live at the town center (as my wife and I do), it is obviously a huge issue for the usability of your cell phone.

  3. Mason November 13th, 2009 1:55 pm

    Good to read a compounding story. I work in town center and having been going crazy ready to just drop the phone and at&t completely with absolutely horrible service.

    I haven’t been having any problems at home in arlington, so this at least makes sense even though I am pissed about it.

  4. Carl Hutzler November 13th, 2009 1:58 pm

    The issue may be an overloaded cell tower. I am not sure. But since it seems fine in the AM and crap after noon, I suspect it is not faulty equipment. And from reading some reports of phone behaviors in places like NYC where AT&T’s network is completely over-sold, I am further pushed to thinking that it is a traffic congestion issue like AT&T has in many other major metro areas. But if it can happen in Reston, VA, it could happen in lots of other places around our neck of the woods very quickly.

  5. Carl Hutzler November 13th, 2009 4:31 pm

    I guess there are a few people who have been hit by this issue at the Reston Town Center. One guy above. Another one left this on the engadget article’s comment area…

    http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/13/editorial-hey-atandt-drop-lawsuits-not-calls/comments/23092063/

    “Sanskrit @ Nov 13th 2009 3:10PM

    Thanks for the info. My brother-in-law lives near there and keeps complaining about his craptacular AT&T service. Then again, his contract is up next week and he’s moving to Droidsville, so it’s no real issue there anyway.”

  6. [...] average!). And isn’t the ability to actually use the data network kind of the first issue. AT&T’s data network is way overloaded and/or broken in many big cities including my own here in Reson, [...]

  7. Dennis Dayman November 20th, 2009 2:11 pm

    The issue must be larger as I was in DC this week and the same problems have been happening ALL week. dropped calls, 3G to EDGE, lost data services, etc. It was an AWEFUL week in DC with my iPhone.

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