Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has imposed a penalty of $40 million as part of a settlement after its investigation found that T-Mobile USA failed to correct problems with delivery of calls to rural consumers.
T-Mobile used false ring tones, which are banned, to give the impression faulty voice calls were actually getting through. T-Mobile did not comment on the development. T-Mobile has a strong presence in rural areas of North America.
The development in a big setback for T-Mobile which is competing against AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to add wireless customers to its network. T-Mobile is known for improving the quality of services (QoS) to its wireless subscribers to retain subscriber-base across the nation.
FCC said T-Mobile has violated the Communications Act and FCC rule that prohibits mobile operators from inserting false ring tones with respect to calls. “T-Mobile agreed to pay $40 million to the U.S. Treasury and entered into a compliance plan to prevent future violations,” FCC said.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated: “It is a basic tenet of the nation’s phone system that calls be completed to the called party, without a reduction in the call quality—even when the calls pass through intermediate providers.”
FCC’s Enforcement Bureau opened an investigation following rural carrier and consumer complaints that T-Mobile callers were unable to reach consumers served by three rural carriers in Wisconsin.
T-Mobile informed the FCC that it resolved consumer complaints. But FCC again received complaints indicating about poor quality voice calls in rural areas. In addition, call completion complaints filed directly with T-Mobile showed patterns of problems with call delivery to consumers in at least seven other rural areas.
FCC said the investigation also revealed T-Mobile’s practice of injecting false ring tones into certain calls. T-Mobile reported that it had done so on hundreds of millions of calls and admitted that its actions violated the Commission’s prohibition of injecting false ring tones on any calls.