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Sprint Nextel suffers service outage

Two fiber cuts in the West disrupt service for thousands of customers of Sprint Nextel and its resellers.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
Thousands of customers of Sprint Nextel wireless and its resellers, such as Virgin Mobile, were without service Monday after the network suffered two separate fiber cuts, a company spokesman said.

At about 12:30 p.m. PST, a fiber cut between Palm Springs, Calif., and Phoenix had interrupted service for Sprint Nextel's wireless, wireline and long-distance customers. Most of the customers affected were on the West Coast. But there were reports of service interruptions in the Midwest and on the East Coast, too.

Sprint Nextel, like all major carriers, has a redundant fiber optic network, so if one link fails, traffic will be routed to another fiber without service interruption. But Monday, much of the traffic running on the Phoenix/Palm Springs link already had been rerouted from a link outside Reno, Nev. Heavy rains in the area had caused what technicians refer to as a "washout." To repair the fiber, the company had to cut it and shift traffic from Reno to the Phoenix link while they repaired the fiber.

"The second cut made a bad situation worse," said John Taylor, a spokesman for Sprint Nextel. "Rerouting the traffic is standard operating procedure, but because the fiber was cut somewhere near Phoenix, there was a very noticeable disruption in service."

Sprint Nextel technicians have suspended the emergency maintenance near Reno in order to restore as much traffic as possible. Other Sprint Nextel technicians are at the site of the Phoenix cut and will begin repairing the fiber cut as soon as possible, the company said. Updates will be posted on the company's Web site.

These dual fiber cuts have resulted in dropped calls and outages of traffic going to and coming from western areas of the United States, the company said in a statement. Long distance service for mobile phones calling on both the Sprint PCS and Nextel National Network have been affected. Internet traffic on the Sprint Nextel IP network might also be delayed. While local Sprint phone service shouldn't be affected, long-distance calls on its residential network could be, according to the statement.

Mobile phone service from other providers, such as Virgin Mobile, have also been affected by the outage. Virgin Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, that uses the Sprint network and rebrands the service as its own. Representatives from Virgin Mobile were not available for comment.

Complaints from cities such as San Diego, Madison, Wis., Alexandria, Va., and Philadelphia filled the pages of Howardforums.com and Sprintusers.com.

Samuel Livingston, an information technology consultant in San Diego, said he noticed the service interruption around 12 p.m. PST. Spotty service started to return at about 3 p.m. PST. Livingston said the interruption has been more than just an inconvenience, since he relies on his cell phone to conduct business.

"My phone is my lifeblood," he said. "If it's down while I'm on the road, I might as well pull the car over and just wait."