Tech glitches could bug AT&T for holidays

Cell phone services company AT&T Wireless said Tuesday that it was still wrestling with technical glitches in a new software system that have plagued the company for more than three weeks.

Company spokesman Mark Siegel told Reuters on Tuesday that AT&T Wireless is working on software problems that delayed connections for some new customers and at various points cut off access to some 3 million records. Siegel could not say how many new customers had been affected or when the issues would be resolved, but he did note that the company would offer credits to these customers. "Its still not perfect but we have made good progress," said Siegel. The customer service software, which is used to keep track of client accounts, has been sporadically available while the company has worked on the glitches.

Siegel would not reveal the name of the supplier of the software in question, but Bear Stearns analyst Philip Cusick suggested that the problems were related to software from Siebel Systems. Some analysts are concerned the problem could hurt the company during the holiday retail season. "While we are not yet revising our forecasts for the company the ongoing concern over (connecting new customers) during the industry's best-selling season is a reason for concern," Legg Mason analyst Craig Mallitz said in a research note to clients.

Last week, Mallitz cut his expectations for AT&T Wireless subscriber growth for the fourth quarter of this year and next year. He reduced his fourth-quarter target by 60,000 to 420,000, and he cut his 2004 estimate to 1.23 million from 1.28 million. The technical issues also raised concerns AT&T Wireless could lose out as customers can more easily switch phone services under new rules. As of Monday, most U.S. customers were able to switch cell phone providers while keeping the same phone number.

News source: C|net

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