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AT&T Voice Network Blocking

Yesterday, AT&T experienced a spike in call volume that led to callers getting fast busy signals. Some Fortune 100 companies reported that ~20% of their in-bound Toll Free customers were getting a fast busy. I personally experienced a couple yesterday.Why did AT&T not have the capacity? My speculation is that there are a number of reasons:

1. First Day Back--After a long holiday, everyone gets back into the office and has lots of voice and emails that require responses. A good number of these responses are voice based.

2. On-line Shopping--2009 holiday was another on-line shopping record. People need to return, exchange, sort out billing questions... and so the e-tailers got a lot of calls.

3. iPhone--More people got iPhones and other cellular phones over the holidays and are using them.

4. The Economy--Due to the slow economy most people did not take a lot of vacation over the course of this year. This, along with the fact that most companies have instituted policies of limited or no vacation carry-over led to a record number of people being off during the holiday, and thus a record number of calls to be made once they got back to work.

My guess is the blocking was due to sheer call volume vs. something failing in their network. They lacked either the bandwidth to handle all the calls and/or the call processing power to set up calls. Once blocking starts occurring, it can snowball as users hang up and start redialing.

So, as much as we are a multi-channel world, voice is still an important communication channel and the sheer volume of calls has, is, and will continue to go up. This should be a wake-up call to not only AT&T, but all carriers and businesses, that voice call volume will continue to grow, especially the peaks, resulting in the need for investing in the voice infrastructure versus just "harvesting" what is in place.

What bothers me about yesterday's blocking is not the fact that it happened, but the fact that I could find nothing on the Net about it. I believe that it is incumbent on any service provider to disclose major problems that they are having and what they plan on doing about it versus letting users wonder what is going on. Did any other carriers have a problem yesterday? Not knowing is worse and harder to manage than knowing...

Did you and/or your organization experience fast busies yesterday? Any additional ideas on why so many calls yesterday? Do you think AT&T should put out an explanation of the problem and what they plan on doing about it?