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Bad switch puts glitch in cellular phone calls

By null, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 30, 2003

Had trouble Tuesday placing calls to or from a cell phone? Don't blame your wireless carrier.

This time the fault was with Verizon Communications, the Tampa Bay area's dominant provider of conventional, or landline, phone service.

A switch that mostly handles calls between cell phones and Verizon's landline network, as well as some long-distance traffic, malfunctioned in Verizon's Tampa Main switching center in downtown Tampa at about 4:30 p.m., causing congestion that prevented calls from being completed, according to Verizon spokesman Bob Elek.

Verizon technicians fixed the problem and restored full service within about three hours after it was discovered, but they remained uncertain Tuesday evening what caused the glitch, Elek said. Local landline service wasn't affected during the incident, he said.

A phone switch helps direct the flow of voice and data traffic to its final destination by connecting, for instance, a landline network to a wireless one. The switch that malfunctioned Tuesday is one of three at Tampa Main and doesn't have a backup. Each switch handles about 8-million calls a day, which includes data transmissions, such as electronically processed credit-card transactions, Elek said.

- Louis Hau can be reached at hau@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3404

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