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AT&T Phones Adding Unknown Recipients from Different Area Code to Group Texts (att.com)
95 points by dwringer 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

It's marked as "solved", but the solution is just an AT&T rep apologizing and asking users to report more information if they experience the problem again.

Welcome to almost every support answer from every big company. It's getting harder and harder to get support for obviously broken systems if you can't publicize the problem.

With most telecom carriers, you need to phone them, trying to get meaningful support online is wishful thinking.

IME, even phoning them is generally a waste of time

It's solved because AT&T knows what's causing it. Not that they'll tell you.

where did you get that idea? the "solution" says:

We are investigating this issue and are looking for more information to get down to the bottom of this. If you do experience this issue, please send us a private message. ... We thank you for your help and patience as we work on this issue.

So they dont know what's causing it, and they have not solved it.

A classic case of moving something that's bad PR to private communications. Happens on twitter all the time.

Though many companies do move bad PR to private communications, in this case a private message makes sense since AT&T is asking for personal information such as the customer's phone number.

What is now the classic playbook.

Smiley Face, say it has been largely mitigated.

Ask for PMs for specific cases.

Making a widespread issue seem isolated as you implement a fix that affects 10M people.

What does this mean? Do you know what's causing it?

Possibly related anecdote; A few years ago I purchased a new sim card for my phone with a large Australian mobile carrier. After popping the new card in, I discovered ~10 real human being contacts on the sim that I had never heard of before (not tech support or business, carrier numbers etc.). They had names and everything. Contacted a few of them and couldn't figure out what the common factor was. I lodged a complaint with the carrier and got a personalized letter and call back from their state manager. No explanation why though. Still baffles me today. Do sim cards get re-used?

GroupText is via MMS, so these group text are routed via ATT MMSC. Which is shit.

Happened to a co worker. Got added to a group text and has no idea how. The people in the group text were surprised as well.

Yeah, this solves (sort of) the mystery of someone none of us knew being added to a large group text about a year ago.

This happened to my brother and girlfriend at the same time.

Both iPhone users. We thought it was someone fucking with us, so I got the CNAM of the phone number and creeped the guy out by telling him his name (lol) and then we both came to the conclusion that something fishy is going on.

Sounds like a good way to make new friends! Statistically, you'll probably meet someone interesting...

I've seen it and I'm pretty sure this is an android bug. I noticed that in lollipop, contacts with the same number but different area codes are not treated differently in the messaging UI.

Tmobile with an old cyanogen build.

This looks like it was posted in an Apple subforum, and anecdotally this came to my attention because of someone I know with an iPhone, so I think that might be a separate issue (or possibly a different incarnation of the same issue). Also, in this instance, I think the entire phone number is unrecognized, not just the area code.

Hard to tell where the problems are between the carrier and handset are nowadays. Thanks for pointing that out. I missed it.

But these people all seem to be strangers.

I was more amused that poster only has one kevin in his contact list.

I'd bet a large majority of people have between zero and one. Name collisions aren't rare, but collisions on any particular name, even names much more common than Kevin, are.

I have six.

You also have 100s of people in your contact list.

Yeah, about 500 or so.


So that was why they were amused. One of the elements of humour is unexpectedness. :)

Happened to myself and a group of friends too! Some random person replied “who is this?”

Anyone with telecom knowledge have any idea what this could be?

If it's a group message I believe it's carried over the mms channels so it could be a bug in the mmsc.

There are so many layers involved that it's hard to know but I'd guess it's a caching bug somewhere along the line.

Source: telecom PM for years.

There's two ways to do multi party messaging - Broadcast SMS, or Group MMS. The later is more likely here, given it's a regular group message.

It's most likely to be a bug on one of the MMSCs, but could be a problem elsewhere if the message is getting corrupted in flight. Alternatively, it could be routing issue in a certain set of numbers.

Hey it’s josh!

Yes MMSC errors sound right. Or wacky IMS stuff.

Not that I really worked on MMS/Group chat systems, I see a lot of speculation that this could be a bug in the MMSC.

While I have no reason to believe that it is not the MMSC, another item to consider would be the IMS/RCS systems. I have no idea how ATT specifically has deployed their system and can't remember what vendors they are using, but there is a fairly significant behind the scenes shift towards IP based services in the wireless telco world. Personally, while I was in the industry and IMS was very new (15 months ago), I found these systems to be very immature and unreliable, so I would suspect the newer equipment before the older equipment.

Without looking into the issue in detail though, it's really hard to say. Simply speculating it could be caused by any number of problems: 1. If it's really two chat requests at a time, and two users getting crossed, I would suspect the RCS side of things, and the server actually doing the invites to the chat session could have a sort of memory corruption bug that is crossing the requests 2. If it's only a single person, then it could be happening somewhere where numbers get translated or routed. If it were say Enum though (mainly for number portability), I would expect this to affect other types of requests, like a phone call going to the wrong party, not just group chat. 3. There are a number of fairly complicated call flows, for things like interop between users who have IMS, and those who do not. But I'm not really sure how this would fail in crossover between users. 4. There is always the possibility that an Identifier somewhere being used is too short, or two vendors not agreeing on a standard somewhere

Anyway's, without digging into some of the signalling, and getting more details, it's pure speculation.

What I can say, is with IMS/VoLTE which is what I last worked on in the telco industry, we had quite a few crazy bugs.

It was a minor bug in the NSA text collection program. Don't worry citizen, go back to your scheduled life.

Your comment reminded me of a similar scenario with my Windows 10 PC. One day, I saw lot of computers (100+) listed in my network when I went to network places through Explorer. My laptop was the only one in my network. I don't know if it was a bug in Windows or if my PC was actually part of some unknown n/w. I suspected dd-wrt in my router and immediately went back to manufacturer firmware and formatted my laptop. Never saw that after.

I know in iMessage, you can tap the (i) info icon then + Add Contact. And so can a friend add someone unknown to you. But Occam’s Razor be damned...

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