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Verizon and T-Mobile in trouble after FCC accuses them of lying about coverage maps

Verizon Map
Verizon Map (Image credit: Verizon)

What you need to know

  • The FCC was suspicious of coverage maps and conducted its own drive tests.
  • Verizon, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular were all singled out for suspicion.
  • The report recommends an Enforcement Advisory detailing consequences.

Wireless carriers are required to submit accurate coverage maps, and the keyword here is "accurate," to the FCC so that public funds can be properly allocated to support broadband access — especially in communities where coverage is sparse. The FCC recently realized that three mobile carriers — Verizon, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular — "overstated their coverage and thus were not accurate reflections of actual coverage." This comes according to a new report bumped on Twitter by Mike Dano, Editorial Director for Light Reading. By misrepresenting coverage on maps, the mobile carriers have used public dollars that should have been spent elsewhere.

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To confirm the problem existed, the FCC ran drive tests covering 10,000 miles of driving and almost 25,000 tests. The results were abysmal. Verizon and T-Mobile couldn't even offer the minimum download speeds in more than 35% of the tests run by the FCC. The smaller U.S. Cellular fared even worse, with more than half of the tests coming in under the minimum speed. Additionally, even though coverage maps claimed users would find 4G LTE service, in many instances the FCC found no such coverage. T-Mobile failed to provide promised LTE coverage more than one-fifth of the time, while Verizon did a bit better and U.S. Cellular a bit worse.

T-Mobile 5G with 600Mhz

Source: T-Mobile (Image credit: Source: T-Mobile)

Imagine living in one of these locations. Your carrier assures you that coverage is good, just check the map. The carrier bills you for the faster service, when your data may be slower or nonexistent at times. Then, when the federal government decides to step in and help you out with better service, the carriers have provided maps that claim you don't need any help.

The FCC report recommends an Enforcement Advisory, which is sort of a warning with a list of consequences attached. It is not clear whether the carriers will be sanctioned for submitting inaccurate government documents, but the FCC also concludes that further investigation is required, and future testing protocols should rely on the government representatives, not mobile industry promises.

13 Comments
  • I've know TMobile was lying for a long time
  • Verizon, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular — "overstated their coverage and thus were not accurate reflections of actual coverage."
    Really? I'm shocked...shocked I say.
    Maybe they are just using the same broad interpretation of 'coverage' as they do with the term 'unlimited'.
  • You're seriously recommending Sprint at the end of this article?
  • Went from being a news article to an ad really fast...
  • Right... I live in NYC. I had TMobile from a long time. No issues. Then got 5 lines for $100 for Sprint. I was convinced by my friens who own a Sprint store. Sprint service sucks..... its a total waste of money. Not even worth paying a penny to them. I can not understand what the other person says and the other person dont understand what I say. Its always a guessing game what I heard and what the other person understood. Since my friend would loose comission if I cancel all 5 lines SO I got a srcond TMobile phone. Now I carry two phones. One is Tmobile and one is Sprint. Thanks to friends ;)
  • As a long time VZ customer, no surprise there...
  • Been with Verizon since they were Bell Atlantic. Same dead spots today as then. T-Mobile is just horrible. Always has been in NYC area but if you stay in one spot, with good service, its ripping fast. Same with Verizon. Same with everyone. Just tell the truth! You suck sometimes! Both of you!
  • This is old news. It's a known fact that all carriers exaggerate their coverage map. I'm a TMO customer. And as much as I like TMO for being a disrupter, I don't pay much attention to their claims of cell tower deployments in the city where I live. The proof is in the pudding, they say.
  • I have T-Mobile and as much as I love them, I've always thought their coverage map was ridiculously over exaggerated. It's the entire US map in magenta. Give me a break.
  • I am just curious if you were paid by Sprint to run this story considering you have an ad for them at the bottom. I and everyone else reading this should assume the answer is yes if you fail to respond.
  • Being with Verizon for twenty years, I've come to expect the best from them regarding coverage, and most times out in the rural West, they've done well, but you can see by actual usage, where they say they have coverage... they don't! ATT and TMobile are worse! Sprint doesn't even exist in many places. MVNO's... I'm EXTREMELY wary about transitioning to them.
  • For the last 3 months I've had tmobile and it's the biggest mistake I've made in phone service ever! I had Verizon previously but they were considered marginal coverage at my house, so I got out of the contract. Little did I know how bad tmobile was going to be and now I wish I could go back to Verizon but that bill is what killed me with them. I was paying 300 at Verizon for 3 phones and 2 Hotspots and now I'm paying 200 at tmobile for 3 phones but this crappy service isn't worth it. Yet when I went to tmobile originally, they said that I had good LTE service at my house... Obviously that was a lie
  • Like everyone else here, I'm SHOCKED that they were lying. All of us knew the maps were wrong, but big corporations apparently know best... I have Google Fi now and get zero mobile signal at my parent's house. But T-mobile, who Google uses for towers, shows the entire county surrounding the house as bright magenta with no blank spots. If I zoom in, it shows it in a "fair signal" area, but still with 4G. Again, I get zero cellular signal, can't even make a call.