Sunday, November 10, 2019

SMS provider said 168,000 Valentine’s texts were delayed — now it says the number is higher

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The company at fault for the tens of thousands of delayed text messages that were sent out early Thursday morning says that more messages were delayed than it originally believed. Syniverse, the company in question, originally stated that 168,149 messages were delayed. It now says that the number was based on “preliminary data” and that further review shows the message total “is higher than initially reported.”

Syniverse didn’t indicate how much higher the number might be or whether it would release final numbers once it had figured out the total. It’s worth remembering that the total number of people affected is at least double the number of delayed messages: there’s the sender, whose message was received months later at an odd hour of the night, and the receiver, who got the strange and sometimes disconcerting late-night message.

Syniverse says a server failed on Valentine’s Day and only just came back online

The issue is now resolved and no more delayed messages are being sent, according to Syniverse. “We apologize to anyone who was impacted by this occurrence,” said William Hurley, Syniverse’s marketing and product chief. Hurley says the company is reviewing its processes to “ensure this does not happen again.”

All of the delayed messages were sent out because of a server issue, Syniverse said. A single server failed on Valentine’s Day 2019, holding onto messages that hadn’t yet been sent out. That server was only brought online again on November 7th, causing the stuck texts to finally be released.

The delayed messages led to widespread confusion. In the US, text messages were largely delivered in the middle of the night, and because there was no indication they had been delayed, recipients were usually clueless as to what they were reading. In other cases, the reception went beyond confusion: people received text messages from exes; in several cases, messages were received by people who have died since they were sent.

Mobile carriers rely on a number of third-party companies, like Syniverse, to route text messages that are being sent between networks. That’s why people across all major carriers and even smaller carriers experienced the issue — if their carrier relied on Syniverse, or if the carrier of the person they were messaging relied on Syniverse, their message would have crossed its network, and it could have gotten stuck last Valentine’s Day.

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