A massive wireless outage that has left customers of Rogers Communications Inc. without phone or texting services since early Monday has broad economic ramifications across Canada, experts said.
“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.”
In addition to personal communications, experts said the outage is impacting business sales and services such as food delivery and curbside pickup, payments that require a wireless connection and the ability for people to work remotely.
Rogers spokesman Andrew Garas said the national wireless carrier is working to fix the issue.
“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,” he said in an email. “We sincerely apologize and thank our customers for their patience.”
Residential and business wireline internet services — also referred to as wired or broadband internet — are not impacted, Garas said.
According to Downdetector, a website that tracks outages, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities.
Although the ongoing service disruption appears concentrated in southern Ontario, an outage map suggests the service problems span the country from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.
Users have said they have been unable to place or receive cellphone calls or text messages for several hours.
Some have expressed frustration on social media, noting that they rely on the wireless service as they work from home under ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
“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.
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,” Collier said. “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.
Several emergency services organizations explained on Twitter that while wireless customers can still place 911 calls during a service interruption, they are unable to receive a call back.
Winnipeg Police said that Rogers and Fido customers will still be able to call 911 but must remain on the line to speak with an operator.
Peel Regional Police said that if Rogers customers call 911 they should remain on the line as operators are unable to call back.
“We are experiencing several 911 drop calls that require followup,” Waterloo Regional Police also said on Twitter. “Please do not hang up if you call 911. Stay on the line so we can make sure you’re okay.”
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.
Rogers did not immediately respond to a request for more information.