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Sprint cleans up after spotty outage

The cellular carrier blames a "software issue" for six hours of off-and-on service problems that affected customers in major U.S. areas.

Sprint PCS is blaming a "software issue" for a six-hour partial outage of its U.S. cellular service on Wednesday evening.

A Sprint representative said Thursday that an undetermined number of its cell phone service subscribers couldn't make calls to landline phones between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. PDT on Wednesday. The spotty service affected U.S. customers with phones in area codes beginning with 41 and 42, including subscribers in the San Francisco Bay Area and other major markets.

The Sprint representative said that a "software issue" was at the heart of the cellular network glitches.

However, some Sprint PCS customers told CNET by e-mail that their service didn't return until about 9 a.m. PDT on Thursday. They said the service wavered a few times before returning to normal.

"It turned back on at 9:00am, then off again at 9:30ish," wrote Sprint PCS customer Keith Latman, a 37-year-old small-business owner in San Rafael, Calif. "But its back up now."

Sprint PCS isn't the only wireless carrier in the United States whose subscribers experienced problems making calls between Wednesday and Thursday. T-Mobile USA customers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area suffered some "sporadic local outages" for two hours Wednesday morning during a network upgrade, according to a representative for the carrier.

T-Mobile USA's sister company in Germany also had problems with connections in the middle of the week. The company said Thursday it expected to solve an ongoing network outage in Frankfurt, possibly affecting thousands of people, by Thursday afternoon.

The U.S. outages come as state utility commissions consider whether to create their own consumer "Bill of Rights." Among other issues, these charters would address whether wireless carriers should reimburse customers whenever there is a network outage.

Next week, the mobile industry's biggest players plan to try to cut those efforts short by releasing a voluntary code of conduct they have authored.