T-Mobile fined $40 million because it played fake ringtones and lies to rural users about call quality

The FCC has fined T-Mobile $40 million for faking connections to rural customers in Wisconsin, according to a release. It also inserted fake ring tones into those calls to make it seem like they were connecting and failing, even though no one was on the other end of the call to pick up.

The 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. Although T-Mobile reported to the FCC that the problems had been "resolved," the Commission continued to receive complaints that calls were failing.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. 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.

What's the big deal? T-Mobile has typically had poor connectivity in rural parts of the U.S., owing to a shortage of available low-band spectrum. While the 600MHz auction has resolved the spectrum crunch, it's still rolling out.

This fine stems from years of malfeasance and taints the company's reputation as a straight-shooting, honest carrier.

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

28 Comments
  • Doesn't bode well for the uncarrier, though I'll reserve my complete opinion on it based on their public response, or they try to make up for it.
  • Lol
    This is nuts. Just shows , how far someone can go to mask the problems while proping the business. Fake advertising 101.
    They were desperate to keep adding customers so they can ask for more money from interested buyers. Longer it takes to sell , more they are drowning in debt.
  • Good for them! Hopefully they learn from this 💯
  • Typical Uncarrier
  • Oh, so that’s how you improve coverage beyond the city limits signs, Lol, typical.
  • Nope, it's with the 600mhz of bandwidth
  • John Legere smoked one to many hashtags....
  • Nothing but smoke and mirrors. We are taking about covering things up not drug use, correct?
  • Well, both! Lol
  • LOL wtfh this so strange.
  • In Finland DNA and Telia have solved poor connections in rural areas by building a shared 4G network. Technically it is completely separate network, but it works seamlessly. So I as a DNAs customer am using the same cellular towers as all Telias customers.
  • Me my husband visited Helsinki last year Finland has very fast cell service.
    We have a friend that lives in Vantaa.
    Very beautiful country we plan on going back this year. But I guess if United States was the size of Finland and we'd have some awfully wicked fast cell phone service.
    Finland is about the size of California and has a population of Colorado.
  • Exactly, people from other countries do not realize how big the U.S. is and how the population is distributed.
  • Seven has the same population density as Montana, yet they have much better networks.
  • Same thing here in Canada.
  • I've distrusted T-Mobile's coverage after using their service via Ting for several months. Their coverage map, as shown on Ting, showed solid coverage in our area. However, we found that coverage was spotty as best, with lots of dead spots. We loved Ting's customer service but needed more reliable coverage. We switched to Consumer Cellular, which uses AT&T's network, and haven't looked back. It's a little more expensive than Ting but lots cheaper than the "big few", given that most of our data usage is WiFi. Unfortunately, this article didn't surprise.
  • Well, that's a new one. I'll stay with them for the time being, and decide later.
  • Keep in mind, the connection issues may not have been T-Mobile's fault. The article states that the issue involved calls to three rural carriers. It's possible that the delays in completing the calls were on their end. Also, my guess about why they inserted the fake ringing is because, if they didn't, callers would have assumed the calls had failed and hung up, even though the call was going through.
  • Yeah that's odd. From what I understood the entire concept of "ringing" is artificial on cell phones anyway. It harkens back to the old rotary phone days but people are used to it. Cell phones companies could easily just have a repeating voice saying "connecting...". Nextel used to have a voice that said "Please wait while the Nextel subscriber you are calling is located...." But regardless I assume there are rules about when it is appropriate for the company to insert the artificial ring. And I assume if a $40M fined was imposed, the FCC found TMobile didn't exactly follow the rules regardless of various 3rd party carriers being involved.
  • Tmobile admitted to wrong doing, so there's that.
  • I knew it seemed too good to be true. I've been enjoying good service from an evil phone company sitting on the sidelines the last 5 years watching T-Mobile woo me with promises of a non-evil company. Recently in my cellular wasteland a T-Mo store opened in our mall which made me wonder if they finally got their **** together and are ready to compete in my area. Maybe not so much. Damn.
  • Never know until you try.
  • I'm originally from rural WI, and where I'm from, the cell service has been laughable for years. Over the course of the past decade, I've had service through every major carrier there is in the US and not one of them has reliable service in that area. When I would go back to visit family, I would have to leave a town of 10,000 and drive sometimes 10-15 miles to get a signal.
  • Big Magenta! I don't live in a rural area, yet I too am disappointed with T-Mobile after about a month of use. (Actually, it was unusable for days, during a recent power outage, while other carriers worked fine).
  • So, realistically, how much is $40 million to TMo? Seems to me it would be a drop in the bucket.
  • A really small bucket. If T-Mobile profited $40 billion per year, and this fine is for 10 years, then it'd be a 10,000 drop bucket, about 10 fluid ounces.
  • Free MLB TV, I forgive them.
  • No worries.....Amazon will own them both before too long anyway lol