Cellphone user 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Millions of Cellcom mobile phone users around the country were unable to make
calls or send and receive text messages on Wednesday after a malfunction
occurred in Cellcom’s core network.
This was the worst technical problem
since the founding of the company, Cellcom CEO Amos Shapira told reporters at an
evening press conference in Tel Aviv.
Analysis: Throwing off the cellphone yoke
“At this point we can’t rule out a
deliberate attack on our network,” Shapira said.
Though service was
available in some parts of the country, it is estimated that about half of a
total of 3.3 million Cellcom customers were unable to use their phones. The
malfunction began at roughly 10 a.m., and service was only restored to most
customers late Wednesday evening.
Shapira said that Cellcom’s technicians
were working relentlessly to identify the problem and that Cellcom’s vice
president of technology was collaborating with Nokia engineers in Finland to
find a solution.
“I took the time to speak to the media, because it is
important for me to look our customers in the eye and apologize to them,” he
added. “Millions of users did not receive the standard of service they have come
to rely on, and for that I sincerely apologize. I can guarantee that none of us
will be leaving to light the first Hanukka candle with our families until a
solution is found.”
Shapira would speculate on neither the time it would
take to solve the problem, nor what the precise nature of the problem was. He
said he would notify the media and the public the moment he had any exact
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Shapira also refused to address the issue of reimbursements
or compensation for failing to provide service, claiming that at the moment he
was only concerned with solving the technical problem and resuming service to
the customers, and would deal with other issues after the problem gets
Customers who attempted to gain additional information from
Cellcom’s customer service centers were met with busy signals. The company’s
website ran an apology to the customers, but urged them not to call the call
In an interview for Channel 2 News, Shapira said that he could
not rule out the possibility that Cellcom’s network was attacked by an external
source, but added that they had “no evidence that a cyber terror attack had
Cellcom’s stock fluctuated throughout the day in response
to the malfunction.
Initially the stock dropped 1.25 points, but
rebounded and ended up gaining a point by closing.
One company that
benefited from Cellcom’s loss was Bezeq, which reported a 20 percent increase in
landline usage throughout the day, mainly from Cellcom customers whose mobile
phones failed them or from people who tried to reach Cellcom users in their
homes or offices.
The last time Cellcom dealt with a severe technical
problem was 15 years ago, shortly after the company was founded.
company had to recall more than 60,000phones and opened special customer service centers to handle the flood of
complaints. This time the problem is not with the phones, but rather in the
central network software, so no recalls are expected.
As far as the
customers were concerned, there was a divide between those who were upset over
the loss of use of their phones and complained of lost business or missed
appointments and those who were pleased at the rare respite from constant
ringing that the malfunction afforded them.
“It’s actually kind of nice
not being available for a little while,” said Ofer Dovrat, a 23-year-old
freelance graphic designer from Tel Aviv. “If I really need to make a call, I
can always use the landline.
People have gotten so used to being
constantly available, that they can’t deal with a few hours without their
Dovrat said that he would be less pleased about the situation
if he discovered that his phone continued to be unavailable for an extended
“It’s nice for a day, but I don’t think I could survive for long
without my phone.”
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