Service has been restored, but that hasn’t halted questions about why the Southeast’s vast mobile outage happened in the first place. It appears a fiber optic cable belonging to AT&T was cut along the Kentucky-Tennessee border last Tuesday. But how could a single cut be responsible for bringing down service on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile?
The answer lies through a journey back in time to 1984 when AT&T broke up. The resulting “Baby Bells” were responsible for maintaining the local telephone service infrastructure. As the years went on and cell towers started popping up, wireless companies had to connect them to the phone system operated by these Baby Bells. Eventually, they started combining forces until they became the massive telephone giants they are today: AT&T and Verizon, to name the two largest.
So even though T-Mobile and Sprint are responsible for carrying the actual signal from your phone to the nearest cellular tower, they’re still largely dependent on AT&T and Verizon to carry those calls over the landline and fiber optic infrastructure that was put in place in many regions. Verizon and AT&T are co-dependent when operating in regions where they don’t control the landlines and fiber.
Still, fiber cuts don’t generally result in a massive outage, right?