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Rogers identifies cause of Canada-wide wireless outage, but no time given for service return

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Rogers apologized after an outage affecting its wireless users stretched well into Monday evening, as the company’s chief technology officer said the software issue has been addressed — but that it still could be several hours before the system was fully restored. 

“We have identified the root cause of the service issues and pinpointed a recent Ericsson software update that affected a piece of equipment in the central part of our wireless network,” Jorge Fernandes said in a statement. 

“We do not have an exact time yet as it may take us several hours to get everything back up and running normally.”

Earlier, Rogers said some wireless customers Canada-wide were experiencing intermittent service interruptions for both voice and data services.

The outage, which is also affecting Fido, had broad economic ramifications across Canada, including impacting business operations, sales and payments and the ability for people to work remotely, experts say.

“We know how important it is to stay connected and are working hard to restore services for customers who are experiencing interruptions with wireless voice and data,” Rogers spokesperson Andrew Garas said in a statement to CBC News, adding that its residential and business wireline internet services have not been impacted.

“We sincerely apologize and thank our customers for their patience.”

Consequences for the economy

“It’s a very big deal,” said Tyler Chamberlin, assistant professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. “It can have very big consequences on our economy.”

The website Downdetector was showed Rogers outages beginning overnight and spiking to almost 13,000 reports in the daylight hours.

The outages appeared most prevalent in southern Ontario and Montreal, but stretched from coast to coast. 

Users said they have been unable to place or receive any cellphone calls or text messages for several hours.

On social media, many people posted about how they were struggling with the outage, with some mentioning that it was affecting their attempts to book a vaccine or work from home. Several asked if there would be compensation.

“We’re in another major lockdown here in Ontario and economically that’s far less disruptive … than stopping people from being digitally connected,” Chamberlin said.

Concerns about vaccine booking 

Toronto resident and communications specialist Rachael Collier, a Fido customer, said she first noticed her phone wasn’t working Monday morning when she tried to make a doctor’s appointment.

“I thought my call wasn’t going through because so many people are trying to get vaccines today,” she said during a Google Meet interview.

“Then I realized I couldn’t make any calls. They’re saying it’s intermittent but my phone hasn’t worked all day. It’s clearly an absolutely massive outage.”

With her home internet still working, Collier said she’s been able to work from home. But she’s worried about how the wireless outage is impacting people trying to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m concerned that on the first day of vaccination appointments basically opening, people who are relying on their phones to make an appointment have been cut off,” she said.

Police forces warn of 911 issues

Peel Regional Police in Ontario warned people in their community that if they call 911 they should not hang up, because “our communicators are unable to call back.” Other police forces, including in Winnipeg and throughout southern Ontario, issued similar warnings.

Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam tweeted that a message had been sent from the Corporate Real Estate Management division to people living and working in approximately 850 City of Toronto buildings, warning of a “significant failure” to the Rogers wireless network.

It says the outage is affecting the remote fire alarm monitoring system, though not the fire alarms themselves.

“Until further notice, if a fire alarm is activated in a building, get yourself to safety, then please call 911 and report the fire alarm activation. Don’t assume someone else has or will call,” Wong-Tam tweeted, quoting the management.

Rogers owns a national wireless network that does business under the Rogers, Fido and Chatr brands.

According to an investor page on the Rogers website, the telecommunications company provides both postpaid and prepaid wireless services to about 10.9 million consumer and business subscribers in the Canadian wireless market.

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