[Update: service restored after five hours]
In an unusual national disruption, Canadian cell carrier Rogers
-- the country's largest carrier by subscriber base -- has suffered a near-countrywide failure
of wireless voice communications, though 3G and LTE data appears to be unaffected. Between Rogers Wireless and its subsidiaries Fido and Chatr, the company controls about 34 percent of Canada's cell phone market. Customers from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia say they have been without service for much of the evening, while some report partial service.
What is causing the issue has thus far not been revealed. The Rogers Wireless company website was first reported unresponsive about 10AM PT
and (along with Fido.ca) is still currently unavailable. In the early evening (about 6:45PM ET on Wednesday, the CBC
reported outages in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which spread across the country as the evening wore on. Canada's other largest telecoms, Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility are not affected by the disruption, but smaller resellers that use Rogers' networks, such as the Canadian 7-11 chain, are also affected.
Users report that they cannot complete calls, or if calls go through they are dropped shortly after connecting. Subscribers to other carriers cannot complete calls to Rogers' customers. Voicemail is also unavailable, and customers report some issues with SMS messaging as well. Data, either 3G or LTE, appears to still be working.
The company has issued a short apology through the CBC's Twitter feed, with the network reporting that "Rogers says it apologizes for the inconvenience caused by network issues in parts of Canada. It is working to resolve the problem ASAP." The map below indicates major centers of disruption, but careful viewers will note that yellow tones (indicating service issues) are in fact spread all over the southern half of the country, where more than 90 percent of the Canadian population live.
On the company's own Facebook page, the company wrote "we are experiencing a wireless outage nationally, affecting voice and some SMS service. We apologize for the inconvenience and we are working to resolve it as soon as possible" to a howling cascade of angry customers demanding credit for the outage and calling for more US carriers to be allowed into the Canadian market. T-Mobile (US) in particular, along with Vodafone, has been trying for years to be allowed into the highly-regulated Canadian market. AT&T is Rogers' roaming partner for Canadians travelling to the US.
Although this is the first nationwide outage of this magnitude in at least six years, the disruption couldn't have come at a worse time. Rogers, along with fellow Canadian carriers Bell and Telus, have been engaged in an ad campaign (that has thus far been scorned by the public at large) to persuade the country's radio-telephone authorities to continue to block US or other foreign intrusion into the market.
Canadian customers, however, largely welcome the idea. Until recently, Canada was one of the few countries with three-year contracts, and offers slower data at overall higher rates than most US carriers, in addition to excessive US roaming charges. Recent reforms have forced the carriers to accept US-style two-year contracts and more realistic data pricing, but customers continue to pay more in fees and service charges than in most other countries.
The outage's length is causing more problems, as many Canadians -- like their US counterparts -- have long since ditched "landlines" in favor of using only cell phones. Police in Toronto, reported the CBC, have warned residents about the problems in case they have an emergency and have to call 911, while authorities in Calgary are advising Rogers, Fido and smaller subsidiary Chatr customers to borrow the phones of friends, family or merchants in their area if they need to reach emergency services.
Update: the outage began subsiding about five hours after Rogers originally reported it, though conflicting information suggests that problems started much earlier in the day. Normal service has now been restored, but the carrier has as yet not revealed the cause of the disruption, saying only that it is investigating.