Aircel consumers suffer as network collapses

Businesses and users of mobile app services bear brunt of meltdown; delay in porting out to other networks triggers panic

February 23, 2018 12:22 am | Updated February 24, 2018 02:35 pm IST - Chennai

Long wait:  Customers line up in front of an Aircel Office in Tiruchi on Thursday for cancellation of their connections and to port out to other operators.

Long wait: Customers line up in front of an Aircel Office in Tiruchi on Thursday for cancellation of their connections and to port out to other operators.

Lakhs of Aircel customers across Tamil Nadu struggled without mobile connectivity on Thursday and many of them desperately tried to port their numbers to other operators. The trading and business fraternity struggled the most as they could not make payments without the One Time Passwords (OTPs).

Abaya Pradha, who runs a boutique, said that her network was down and she wasn’t able to pay her dealers. “My business involves huge cash transactions and with the network down I could not get the OTP number to process my transaction,” she said.

Hits OTP hurdle

Customers who had linked their mobile numbers with food delivery apps and cab services, including Ola and Uber, also had a tough time. Online shoppers also faced issues with OTP.

Shantha Sekhar, a house-wife, said that she could not book a cab. “I and my friend were returning from a movie last night and we could not book a cab as both of us had Aircel connections. Since it was midnight, we could not call anyone for help,” she said and added, “We have been using Aircel for over a decade now and we don’t want to port out.”

In Tambaram, security was beefed up at one of the Aircel Customer Care centres as people tried to break open the store.

A few still hopeful

Many Aircel customers said they were not able to latch on to the network manually. K. Arunachalam, a vendor in Virudhunagar, said he wasn’t able to connect to the network despite several attempts. He said that he is on a WhatsApp group where several fruit, vegetable and grocery vendors discuss the demand and supply issues in and around Madurai. “A majority of them use Aircel and since we have been using this number for more than a decade, we don’t want to port out,” he said. People in Salem, Erode and Coimbatore who had Aircel connections for several years echoed his views and said they would wait and watch before porting out. On Thursday, some customers got their port out numbers but still faced challenges. Mythili Sukumar, a housewife, said, “I got my port out number. The challenge now is that the new service provider who I’m going with is also witnessing huge traffic and has told me I can get my SIM card activated only after a week.”

Consumers who ported out and went to other telecom providers are upset that they have to wait for two days to get the number activated.

At one of the Aircel outlets, a representative said, “I request the public not to panic. It always takes two to three days to port out. That is the usual time frame for any telecom service provider. We are working on sending out the codes.”

( With T. Madhavan )

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