Virgin Mobile USA had a massive data outage on July 11, 2011, leaving me without mobile broadband for almost 24 hours. After service was restored, my Novatel MiFi 2200 was left in a state in which it would not connect, requiring a complete reset and re-authentication. Virgin’s customer support wasn’t very helpful, so here’s what I did to get back online.
Symptoms of an Outage
I first noticed the Virgin Mobile USA outage around 11 AM on Monday. I was in Las Vegas for Cisco Live 2011, and could not get online to prepare for and report from the event.
The MiFi refused to connect (not that unusual in the wide open spaces of the USA) and shortly began reporting an error message (shown above) when I tried visiting web sites in Safari on the iPhone.
AT&T was also having 3G issues in Las Vegas at the same time, so I had to disable 3G to get my iPhone online. Once it was running, I headed over to Twitter to check what Virgin’s @VMUcare account had to say. Sure enough, there were hundreds of messages about a “national 3G and text/MMS outage“.
Alarmingly, the Virgin customer service line +1(877)877-8443, was busy or could not connect. They were totally unable to assist customers!
This outage lasted most of the day, with no official status updates beyond “our engineers are working to resolve it as soon as possible.” In fact, I’m not sure Virgin Mobile USA even has a network status update page!
The Fix: Reset and Reboot
This morning, I contacted Virgin’s social media customer support email again, asking for a status update. The brief response suggested I should “perform a master reset on your device located in the bottom.” I had no idea what that meant, but presumed they were suggesting some sort of factory reset.
Rather than poking a paperclip into the hole by the battery compartment (since I didn’t have one and didn’t notice that hole), I decided to reset it in software.
I logged into the device’s administrative interface, then clicked “System Status” under the “Advanced” menu. At the bottom of the page is a button to “Reset to Factory Defaults”, which I clicked.
After a warning, the MiFi rebooted. I reconnected to the admin interface (after remembering that the password is “admin”) and reset it to my taste. I was finally back online!
As an IT guy, I know that outages sometimes happen. But a nationwide data outage that lasts almost a day and leaves devices unable to reconnect is serious. And a complete lack of any customer service availability or system status notification is absurd.
Virgin must immediately build better customer support processes and create a system status page; not everyone uses Twitter after all! And I expect a credit from them, since I just lost a substantial amount of my paid service at a critical time!
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