Nextel Customers Temporarily Lose Cell Service

If you were wondering Wednesday why your cell phone wasn't working, you weren't alone. The entire Nextel network went down causing lots of hassles for lots of customers.

Ryan Wales, for example, works for a commercial flooring company in Montgomery. He noticed a problem with his company's cell phones around 10:30 a.m. "I was actually using it and it went out," he says.

So Ryan switched to a land-line. When he called Nextel, he found out he wasn't the only one. Thousands of Nextel customers in a 3-state region were without service for most of the business day. The company blames one of its fiber optic partners.

Here's the problem. Your cell phone sends a signal to a nearby cell phone tower. But because a fiber optic network was down, those towers couldn't send it on to Nextel's switching station in Pensacola. The company that owns the fiber optic network, U.S. Carrier, says it is a very rare problem.

But even one day without cell service can be a big waste of time. For Ryan, it meant not being able to communicate with his installers in the field. "Because we couldn't talk to them about a shipment coming in, we had to drive all the way out to the site," he explains.

And while that didn't translate into a huge financial loss, in the business world, any loss of time is a loss of productivity. "You don't get as much accomplished when you're driving back and forth," Ryan says.

Lots of people driving back and forth on Alabama roads were affected. Even if you don't use Nextel, you would have had trouble calling people who do. Company officials told WSFA the problem was repaired by the end of the day.

Cingular Wireless also experienced some network problems Wednesday, but for a shorter amount of time. And those problems have also been repaired.

Reporter: Mark Bullock