KA - Cricket solves phone glitch

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Problems with many of the company's cell phones have nothing to do with capacity.

By Deb Gruver The Wichita Eagle

Some Cricket Communications cell phone users say their wireless telephone service has failed them recently, but company officials said Friday that they had identified and repaired the problem. Cricket launched its phone plan -- which it calls Comfortable Wireless -- in February in the Wichita area. Marketed as the everyman's cell phone, the plan offers unlimited local calls for $29.95 a month with no contract required.

But customers such as Meg Robinson of Wichita say they've had a number of problems with service over the past week.

Robinson said it would take her three or four tries to make calls. Incoming calls were going directly into her voice mail. Her phone wouldn't ring when she got a call, she said.

"I'm having problems making calls unless they're to other Cricket users," she said.

Robinson said she thought Cricket had oversold its phones in the Wichita market.

But capacity is not the problem, said Susan Bramsch, president of Sterling Communications, the public relations firm for Cricket.

"As of noon today, we have identified the problem. It is not a capacity issue," Bramsch said Friday. "The problem was a software computer glitch, and this was an embedded problem. It was buried so deep it took four days to uncover. But as of noon today, our customers are able to make and receive calls."

Steve Slade, general manager of Cricket in Wichita, explained that the software problems were causing "some network difficulties."

"The computer systems that run the network are not processing the calls," he said. "They're not passing through our switch, so to speak. It's a technical difficulty."

Bramsch said Cricket would monitor the problem throughout the weekend and into next week.

Cricket's 14 other markets across the country were not having problems, she said.

The computer glitch did not affect all of Cricket's customers in Wichita, she said. The company would not disclose the number of its customers in Wichita, saying that was proprietary information.

Cricket sells its phones at its two company-owned stores in Wichita and at dozens of indirect distributors. Cricket has 96 places in the Wichita area where people can sign up for the plan.

Cricket will work with affected customers, Slade and Bramsch said.

The company will deal with customers' complaints on a case-by-case basis. Pro-rated bills might be one option, Bramsch said.


-- Doris (nocents@bellsouth.net), April 23, 2001

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