The fire showed how mobile connections still rely on land-based telecoms infrastructure.
A mobile call connects a user's phone to a base station that is connected to a land line, which is part of the public phone network. The call is then routed to the nearest base station to the call recipient, where it can be relayed to them via their mobile phone.
If a relatively small number of these base stations are taken out, the overall coverage of the operator can be severely reduced.
Vodafone said it initially lost up to 40% of its traffic capacity in areas south of Manchester. "Where we leased lines from BT to deliver a service, we were hit," a spokesman said.
An O2 spokesman said, "We were able to re-route some calls, but we did not have enough capacity to totally avoid a problem."
T-Mobile said, "The fire meant that we initially lost a number of cell sites in the Stockport area. We worked closely with BT to re-route traffic, and more than 50% of the affected sites were fully restored within four hours."
Only Orange said it was not affected. It was warned early about the problem by BT and had the capacity to re-route all its traffic.