T-Mobile argues that FCC made testing errors in report on rural coverage


Back in December, the FCC said that it had conducted drive tests of T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular’s networks and found that the carriers had misrepresented their rural coverage. The FCC said that it won’t punish the carriers because they “did not find a sufficiently clear violation”, but T-Mobile has still taken the time to respond to the FCC’s report.

T-Mobile said in a filing this week that FCC’s original report used a “flawed verification process” and that the agency “failed to follow commonly-accepted coverage testing procedures as well as its own MF-II instructions.” T-Mo then goes on to call out four ways in which it believes the FCC made errors:

  • the sampling was extremely limited and not statistically sound, using only a single testing point for each grid;
  • in contravention of the FCC’s own requirement to measure outdoor coverage, staff conducted drive tests using handsets mounted inside cars, which is considered in-vehicle coverage;
  • testers failed to recognize or remedy the fact that their device was locked onto a 3G signal while attempting to test 4G speeds; and
  • the Staff Report contains obvious measurement errors

T-Mobile then goes into more detail about the errors that it believes the FCC made. For example, it says that the FCC’s outdoor testing consisted of only seven test locations in two states and that the stationary tests were made at the locations only once.

“This is insufficient from a statistical basis to form conclusions regarding specific locations and is wholly inadequate to form the basis for conclusions about coverage,” T-Mo argues.

T-Mobile also says that using phones mounted inside a car resulted in around 6db of signal attenuation due to blockage from the vehicle.

Additionally, T-Mo argues that a number of the “failed” tests occured when the phone was on a 3G signal even though it was in an area with 4G coverage. T-Mobile suggests that the test phone may have been inadvertently locked onto a 3G signal. For example, the FCC’s testing on April 1, 2019 showed 109 failed samples on 3G in areas where 4G LTE was available, T-Mo says.

Finally, T-Mobile says that the FCC’s report contains “obvious measurement errors” including multiple reports that had RSRP values that were outside of realistic values. T-Mo points to more than 60 test results in Montana where the reported RSRP value was less than -150dBm and often had “clearly unrealistic values” like -222 or -218dBm while also showing multi-megabit download speeds.

“T-Mobile is committed to providing accurate coverage information to consumers,” T-Mo says in the conclusion of its filing. “We look forward to working with Congress, the FCC, and wireless industry in establishing an efficient and transparent wireless coverage mapping process for the 5G Opportunity Fund and other public policy initiatives in the future.”

The FCC originally conducted these tests because of concerns that some carriers may have overstated their coverage in maps submitted as part of the Mobility Fund Phase II auction. This submission process helps the FCC determine where it should allocate up to $4.53 billion over 10 years.

You can check out the T-Mobile’s full response to the original report at the FCC link below.

Via: Ars Technica
Source: FCC

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  • Brenden Morris

    T-Mobile is freaking joke. T-Mobile is turning into Verizon.

    • Aaron a

      Except currently the only difference is Verizon is actually deploying 5g. While TMobile grabbed att idea of 5ge and cloned it and now calling 1 spectrum and massive Mimo 5g when it’s actually 5ge. Both companies lie about coverage.

      • Shaun Michalak

        Both?? Name one company that has not lied about their coverage.. And that includes Verizon.. in fact, they have found out that US Cellular is actually the worst at lying about their coverage.. Twice as bad as T-Mobile, or Verizon.

        Yes, Verizon is deploying 5G.. as mmWave.. yea, they have 5G.. Whoopty doo.. Hey, I have 5G covering 0.01% of all my coverage.. Really?? You think that is something to brag about?? Oh wait.. T-Mobile has 5G in mmWave too.. Well, there goes the Verizon 5G advantage..

        The thing is, T-Mobiles 5G off of towers is not limited by it being off of towers.. It is limited by their ability to get enough spectrum to make a better 5G network, which is why they are merging with Sprint.. But then again, if the AG’s did not throw that lawsuit, T-Mobile and Sprint would probably be merged right now, and they would have been able to start putting all that extra bandwidth and frequency to work a long time ago.. So is it 5G.. Yes.. does it meet their full standards, and able to produce those results.. Nope.. Not because they can not, but because they do not have the resources to do so.

  • slybacon

    So why doesn’t T-Mobile shut down 2G and 3G signals already?!? Who is even using those signals these days? If the FCC’s phones can lock onto a 3G signal and have a bad experience, then certainly regular consumers could experience the same thing. Come on, get rid of 2G and 3G already and just use 4G and 5G!!!

    • 2G is pretty much gone at this point. But you should always have a fallback, 5G is just rolling out so most places have 4G/LTE with 3G as fallback. Once 5G is fully rolled out 3G will be probably be deprecated in favor of 5G with 4G/LTE as fallback.

      • Aaron a

        Actually CDMA (2g 3g) is turned off on Verizon lte only. Att and TMobile is next to shut them down. Sprint and T-Mobile this will speed up the shut down because the merger bringing both carriers into one and going to LTE which is compatible between the 2 carriers. No point into merging Sprint customers to gsm just to sunset it in a year or 2.

        • none

          ATT 2G is also shut down as of 2017. That’s why the original iPhone doesn’t work anymore.

          T-Mobile IIRC is keeping 2G for IoT/M2M stuff. Until 2021.

        • Shaun Michalak

          Problem is with T-Mobile is the fact that there is not too many towers that even have that ability any more.. For the past 5 years, which is probably about 75% or more of their coverage, any tower installed in that time, they have only installed 4G or better service on.. so the ones with 2G or 3G are far and few to start off with.

        • Shaun Michalak

          Actually CDMA (2g 3g) is turned off on Verizon

          This is not accurate.. I know someone that uses Verizon towers for service, and they only have a 3G phone, no 4G, and they still have service as of a week ago.. Verizon was “supposed” to have their 3G turned off by last December, but they changed it to this December, so you comment is accurate only on what they originally intended, but not what they actually did..

      • Will

        Come to central Georgia where you’ll still connect to 2G/EDGE majority of the time bro.

      • Shaun Michalak

        Not all places have fall backs.. In fact, all T-Mobile towers that they have put up in the past 5 years, they never put any backwards compatibility on them.. They only installed 4G service on them.. Considering that most of T-Mobiles current network is newer then 5 years old, that would tell me that very little of T-Mobiles network has any kind of backwards compatibility on it.. They only have 4G or 5G on them..

        With AT&T.. They have a significant number of towers that have never been upgraded past 3G.. So they will have to upgrade to 4G or 5G before they can do anything about shutting their 3G network down.. But at the same time, that also means that their 3G is their primary, not a backup too..

        Either way, there is a lot of towers out there that do not have that fallback frequency that you talked about.. It is 4G only, or newer.. They have been taking down 3G on all of the networks, little by little for years now.. They need more bandwidth for 4G, and 3G is taken down to supplement 4G for service.. All the companies have been doing this. Not just one. Heck, I believe that US Cellular, if I remember right, already has their 3G and older service, already shut down, and has been for a little while now.

    • Shaun Michalak

      Actually, Verizon originally was supposed to have their shut down last December, but then they put it off until this December.. Sprint and T-Mobile both said either this year or next.. But I can see Sprints all going down this year as they upgrade the towers for T-Mobile service.. Especially since Sprint uses equipment from multiple vendors, and T-Mobile wants to switch it over to one vendor, and I can not see them putting in the equipment to support 3G to take it down a few months later. AT&T said their sis supposed to all be down by early 2022.. With AT&T, they still have a lot of towers that have never been upgraded past 3G, so they will have to upgrade all those towers before they can shut it down. With T-Mobile, any tower that they put up within the past 5 years, they never put any backward compatibility on them, so they all only have 4G for service, so no need to shut anything down there..

      As for who is using those signals.. I read an article that was put out about a year ago, where AT&T said that something like 1 in 10 of their prepaid subscribers were still using 3G phones, so there is still a lot of people out there using them.. I know 3 people that currently use 3G phones that are on Verizon’s service myself.. So yea, there still is a lot of people that have never upgraded to a 4G phone out there.

    • stogie5150

      I am using 2g on T-mobile…I have a 2g phone that looks like a landline phone, that I bought way back in 2013. My 81 year old live in Uncle can’t use a fliphone but he can use that landline lookalike. SO there are some out there. Wouldnt hurt my feelings to turn it off though, if made to, however. Its on the old prepaid plan that I only have to add 10 bucks a year to keep it active, best deal in wireless. :-)

  • Aaron a

    TMobile out lying again. Next you will tell us your current 5ge clone is actually 5g. Lol it’s basically the same as att 5ge network using one spectrum and massive Mimo.

    • none

      Except 5Ge is just LTE-Advanced, whereas T-Mobile is using actual 5G NR as defined by 3GPP Release 15.

      T-Mobile just happens to not be using lots of bandwidth(only using 20x20MHz when they have 35x35MHz in most areas).

      They can still deploy more bandwidth, and increase speeds.

      • AA-Ron

        You tell em

  • Willie D

    Pretty sure TMo lies about everything. From their coverage to their actual subscriber numbers, how many lines are paid vs free, etc.

    • Trevnerdio

      What makes you think any of that? You know that each line is counted as a subscriber, whether it brings in revenue or not, right?

      • Willie D

        But that’s the thing, each line is NOT a subscriber, it’s one account. So they measure using the amount of active lines of service as an individual customer EACH, when simply that’s not true. Giving away free lines to inflate your reports of how many customers you actually have is akin to basically manipulating your books to look better for shareholders but reality is the value of the company is worse once its exposed. That’s my point.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I can not really agree with that.. It is like with us.. We needed 3 lines, but it was cheaper to get 4 lines then 3.. So we went with the 4 line deal.. and we still use the 3 lines like normal, for me, my mom, and dad.. But my nephew took over the 4th line because it was cheaper then getting his own line.. That is exactly what a lot of people do.. They do not get 4 lines when they need 2 or 3 and just let that last line sit there.. They find someone to use it and just have them pay them for it, instead of getting their own account. Most people just combine accounts like that to save money.

        • Trevnerdio

          Well in actuality, each one of those lines is a “subscriber” because they each subscribe to some sort of service.
          I’m pretty sure that stakeholders are aware that T-Mo gives away free lines and not all of the 70M lines bring in revenue – it would be silly to think that. They can see the promo deals, just like the rest of us.

  • Glenn Gore

    Phones sticking with 2G/EDGE, 3G or “4G”/HSPA when there is a perfectly good LTE signal available has been a problem for years. I have seen it on many occasions when running around documenting coverage with Cellmapper. I could be right next to a known AT&T or T-Mobile site equipped with LTE and the phone would just show 2G or 3G. I would have to toggle Airplane Mode or toggle Networking to get the thing to lock onto the LTE for documentation and reporting. Both AT&T and T-Mobile had their phones prefer something else than LTE for some reason, and I guess it still happens in various locations.

    • Will

      This happens a lot in my market still to this day with T-Mobile’s network preferring 2G/EDGE over LTE.

    • Shaun Michalak

      It should not be a problem for too much longer.. They say by the end of this year, or next, depending on the company, they are all supposed to have shut down any network older then 4G.. Verizon was originally going to shut their 3G service down last December, but they extended it by 1 year, to this December, because they are having a problem getting people with 3G phones to upgrade to a newer phone..

  • Phil7474

    Tmobile has been lien for years about coverage. Travel across the great state of Texas and you’ll see huge areas of completley no service where tmobile’s map claim there is 4GLTE. Str8 joke. I wish they would fix that.

    • Will

      Same here in Georgia too.

  • stogie5150

    Fellow South LA resident…every time I see reports that how good T-Mo is, and then I actually talk to people with T-mo, they NEVER line up. I WANT t-Mob to be as good as Big Red Or Big Blue, but, they just aint. And Adding Sprint, which is at most equal to T-mob, to the mix doesn’t give me much hope. And NONE of them are interested in making it any cheaper, I only have two lines and if you compare the three ( four if you count Sprint but they going away) are within a few bucks of each other. I just don’t see a reason to leave big Blue and my 18% corporate discount, and good service.

    • Shaun Michalak

      Here is the thing.. T-Mobile is supposedly going to keep something like 35% of all Sprint towers, and put T-Mobile service on them. So adding that many towers can only improve service.. One thing I have noticed about T-Mobile over the last year.. Every place that I have seen them install a new tower, it has been in places where Sprint does not have a tower in that exact area.. That just tells me that they were waiting for those towers to improve service in areas where Sprint already had a tower.

      When it comes to Sprint and T-Mobile being equal.. They are not, and for many reasons.. First, Sprint has very limited coverage in rural areas.. T-Mobile has greatly expanded into rural areas. Second, a few months ago, they had a report that stated that T-Mobile had something like 59% 4G coverage, and Sprint only had 27%.. Those numbers could be a little off, but that is pretty close.. T-Mobile has been installing a LOT of new coverage over the past 5 years.. 5 years ago, they were about even.. But not any more.

      This is not to say that they are even, or equal with big blue or red.. They still have a ways to go to catch up on that one.. But, getting all those Sprint towers is definitely going to help a LOT. But then again, I guess it all depends on where you live.. For example, I do not see that big of a difference in California.. But where I do expect to see a big difference in Virginia, West Virginia, Nevada, and Mississippi.. and I expect that there will be a lot of tower used to fix low signal areas in many other states..

      In the end, I would say that for the next year, i would not expect to see any new T-Mobile towers going up to improve service, as they will be spending all their time upgrading all the Sprint towers that they are keeping over to T-Mobile towers.. So if there is not T-Mobile or Sprint service there now, do not expect there to be any difference in the next year.

  • Shaun Michalak

    It kind of makes me wonder how much there is a problem when it comes to switching towers.. We have taken trips into rural areas.. I can not tell you how many times my phone would stick on an AT&T tower, even though there was a T-Mobile tower around, and not flip over.. I have had times were I drove with my moms phone attached to a T-Mobile tower the whole time, and my phone would not flip over to it from the AT&T tower, until I was literally right beside the tower.. I have also seen times where my moms phone would have 2 bars through T-Mobile, and suddenly mine would just to the AT&T tower, which had 4 bars, even though there was a 2 bar T-Mobile tower within range.. I never could figure out how to stop it from jumping over to that AT&T tower, or make it flip back, without restarting the phone.

    • Will

      I have this same issue on Sprint. My phone will always prefer an AT&T tower over a T-Mobile one no matter how close I am and it’s frustrating.

      • Shaun Michalak

        I do not think it would bother me so much about jumping off of AT&T if the AT&T tower had full rights.. Not just talk and text.. I do not care about downloading a movie or anything like that.. but it would be nice to be able to do something basic, like loading a map on google maps, or something like that on AT&T.. It bugs me when I want to do that, and I know that there is a T-Mobile tower in range, and for some reason, it still insists on connecting to AT&T.. ugh..

        • Will

          My point exactly. 2G roaming shouldn’t be a thing anymore because it’s almost useless.

  • riverhorse

    All this is perfunctory. Low orbit satellite will eat everyone’s bacon: cloud, wired internet, cable, broadcast, cellular,,,
    And the long merger delay + concessions have severely impaired any TMO headstart.
    A peripheral that can pull in a single, almost zero latency & dead spots, complete world, wireless signal- will make all other similar hardwareservicescompanies superfluous.
    The only potential obstacles would be of the extreme or unlikely variety- competitor cartels, weather cataclysm, government protectionism or rogue armed powers.

  • James Symmonds

    Having driven across the western US numerous times, I suspect the FCC data is correct and T-mobile needs to get busy either filling in holes that their maps show aren’t there or correct their maps. The coverage doesn’t match the maps in more than a few places.