Millions of Airtel mobile phone customers across Mumbai and other cities in western India were unable to make calls, send text messages, use Blackberry services and enterprise data networks for several hours, triggering wild rumours about the timing of the outage as it occurred on the day Anna Hazare began his three-day fast in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Airtel attributed the glitch to a fire in one of its locations in Mumbai, affecting network servers blacking out services.
"There was a network outage in the Western region this morning as a result of a fire in our central POP (point of presence) location in Malad, Mumbai. Our teams have been working to normalise all affected services. Mobile voice, Blackberry and SMS services have largely been restored and are stabilising," the company said in a statement.
"As subscribers from other operators could not talk to Airtel subscribers, the customers started suspecting that the services of all the telecom service providers are effected, may be due to some government directive," said an official of a large telecom service provider and a competitor of Airtel.
The company said it had restored the mobile voice, BlackBerry and SMS services.
"We are working to restore 2G and 3G data services later tonight. However, the restoration work is in progress for the enterprise services like leased lines and Internet services. These services are likely to be restored in the next 24 hours," a company spokesman said.
Flooded with complaints, Airtel apologised to customers on Twitter.