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Quake makes cellphone connections shaky

Cellphone carriers are encouraging customers to send texts instead of placing calls to reach out to others in the aftermath of Tuesday's quake, with lines busy because of call volume.
/ Source: TechNewsDaily

Minutes after the magnitude 5.8 earthquake rattled outside Richmond, Va., and was felt up and down the Eastern Seaboard, people took to Facebook and Twitter to not only report the news but also report that their landlines and cellphones were not working.

Phone carriers are encouraging customers to send texts instead of placing calls to reach out to others.

“The industry’s infrastructure appears to be intact, but because many wireless consumers are using the networks, we are experiencing higher than normal traffic," said CTIA, the wireless trade industry association, in a statement.

"In these high-volume instances, there can be delays. We encourage people to send text messages and emails to contact their loved ones until volume returns to normal.”

T-Mobile's network "is experiencing higher call volumes in all areas and counties affected by the earthquake," T-Mobile told TechNewsDaily. "If customers are experiencing temporary difficultly placing calls due to network congestion, we advise them to use SMS or e-mail until call volumes return to normal."

Meanwhile, Sprint took to Twitter to announce problems with connectivity following Virginia earthquake : "Customers in East may experience intermittent delay making/receiving calls after recent earthquake. This is a temporary mass calling event."

"To contact loved ones following earthquake, please use text messages rather than call. Call delays due to temporary mass calling event," Sprint added.

Cellphone issues like this are not uncommon during natural disasters, according to Philip Solis, research director of mobile networks for ABI Research.

"If a natural disaster such as an earthquake is really strong, it can shake cellphone tower equipment out of order or break the back-hall tower connection, which is the wired circuits that carry all of the cellphone traffic," Solis told TechNewsDaily.

"Right now, problems with texting and making calls have to do with too many people are trying to get in touch with others and that has caused a traffic overload."

Solis said that phone carriers expect a certain amount of usage during different times, but if everyone uses the network at the same time, it won't be able to support that."

"Since the tremors weren't strong enough to shake or break things, especially in places farther away from the center of the earthquake, connections are slower than normal because everyone wants to find out if their loved ones felt the earthquake, too."

Reach TechNewsDaily senior writer Samantha Murphy at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow her on Twitter also contributed to this report.