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Outage leaves BlackBerry users in dark

A large number of people with the BlackBerry device experienced service outages Thursday amid an interruption on the company's largest U.S. network.

A large number of BlackBerry users experienced service outages Thursday amid an interruption on the company's largest U.S. network.

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Many of those who own Research In Motion's signature devices found themselves unable to send or receive e-mail messages for several hours.

"Yesterday was (a) near total blackout for me," said Andrei J. Jezierski of i2 Partners.

Keith Henkell, a systems engineer at Chips Computer Consulting in Lake Success, N.Y., said his company has installed BlackBerry devices at 20 or 30 businesses, more than half of whom complained of problems beginning late Thursday morning.

The outage was especially unwelcome on Wall Street, where the devices have become practically ubiquitous. One Wall Street analyst said he was without his device on Thursday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

The problems even reached to Congress. U.S. Representative George Miller, who represents a district in the San Francisco Bay Area, was hit by the outage, as was his staff who all use the devices.

An aide said that fortunately Miller was in Washington at the time, but noted that the pager has become "an important part of the way the congressman and his staff work together."

A representative for Cingular Wireless, which runs the Mobitex network on which the majority of U.S. BlackBerry devices run, said the wireless carrier was notified by RIM of the problem late Thursday.

"Cingular was informed by RIM there was a network interruption based on a database error," the Cingular representative said. "Cingular and RIM went right to work to identify and resolve that problem."

The BlackBerry nodes on Cingular's network were restarted, and the network was back up and running by 10:30 p.m., Cingular said. Some bounced messages were still in the process of being restored on Friday, Cingular said.

In the past, it has taken days before service is fully restored following an outage because a backlog of messages in the network can cause the congestion.

Cingular said additional BlackBerry nodes are being added to the network to "expedite the return to normal service levels."

A RIM representative said the company is still investigating Thursday's outage. "We do not have full details," the representative said. "There were some delays yesterday, but the system didn't go down. It appears no messages were lost."'s Richard Shim contributed to this report.