Cellphone Outage in Europe Leaves Many U.S. Travelers Disconnected


Many travelers from the United States lost a crucial tool to check maps, make reservations, use ride-hailing apps and more because of a cellular data outage that began affecting users of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon on Wednesday.

The affected travelers, mostly in Europe, posted on social media, seeking answers about what caused the outage and how long it would last. Some reported being unable to make phone calls, send texts or use online services without Wi-Fi for as long as 24 hours. It is unclear what caused the outage, which appeared to extend from Britain to Turkey.

An AT&T spokeswoman said that the carrier’s network was operating normally, but that some customers traveling internationally might be experiencing service disruptions because of an issue outside the AT&T network. The company said it was working with one of its roaming connectivity providers to resolve the issue.

Verizon told some of its customers on social media that it was also aware of the issue and that its teams were working with local providers to resolve it.

A T-Mobile representative said the carrier was one of “several providers impacted by a third-party vendor’s issue that is intermittently affecting some international roaming service” and was also working to resolve it.

George Lagos, a 70-year-old real estate developer from Dunedin, Fla., who is visiting the Greek island of Crete with his family, noticed on Wednesday that his T-Mobile cellular data was not working. For about 24 hours, he said, he was not able to reach the people he had made plans with, though luckily, they had already gone over the details together.

“You know it’s an inconvenience, but it wasn’t a disaster,” said Mr. Lagos, whose service appeared to be restored by Thursday evening. “I didn’t miss a flight. I didn’t have a taxicab looking for me or anything.”

But there was a more serious concern: His wife’s mother has been sick and Mr. Lagos’s wife could not reach the person who was helping take care of her.

“That probably was the worst thing,” Mr. Lagos said.

Major U.S. carriers all offer some version of an all-inclusive international data plan that allows travelers to use their phones much as they would in the United States.

Though the current disruption appears to be easing, travelers affected by such outages have other options to connect. Swapping out a physical SIM card — for phones that still have one — can allow you to connect to a local network. (These typically come in pay-as-you-go or prepaid packages.) For newer phones, apps like Airalo provide relatively inexpensive electronic SIM card packages in many international destinations. And of course, you can always seek out a secure Wi-Fi network.


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