T-Mobile fires back against ‘misrepresentations’ of coverage data

The FCC is working to map out cellular coverage in rural areas. (Shutterstock)

T-Mobile issued a blistering response to allegations by the Rural Wireless Association that the carrier filed inaccurate and misleading coverage information with the FCC.

“Contrary to RWA’s claim that T-Mobile submitted ‘future’ coverage, T-Mobile followed required procedures and submitted shapefiles reflecting 4G LTE coverage as of December 2017. This is consistent with the Commission’s instructions that mobile providers should submit shapefiles reflecting coverage ‘as of August 4, 2017, or later,’” T-Mobile wrote in a letter to the FCC (PDF). “Rather than overstating T-Mobile coverage, the submitted files more likely understate coverage as T-Mobile continued to expand its network throughout the challenge process. RWA’s misrepresentations are part of an ongoing pattern of baseless allegations by the organization against T-Mobile designed to delay or thwart competition in rural America and deprive rural Americans of meaningful choice for broadband services. The organization’s repeated disregard for fact-based advocacy is a disrespectful waste of Commission time and resources.”

Perhaps more importantly, T-Mobile said that it may not be the subject of an FCC investigation into the topic. “T-Mobile has not been contacted by the Commission regarding the agency’s announced investigation into alleged violations of the MF-II 4G LTE data collection and has no reason to believe that T-Mobile is involved,” the operator added.

T-Mobile’s letter comes shortly after the Rural Wireless Association claimed that both Verizon and T-Mobile submitted incorrect and overstated mapping data as part of the FCC’s efforts to map out where wireless coverage is available in the U.S.

The claims by the RWA are particularly noteworthy because the association met with FCC officials on Dec. 6 to detail its concerns about the data from Verizon and T-Mobile. On Dec. 7, the FCC said it would launch an investigation into “whether one or more major carriers violated the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) reverse auction’s mapping rules and submitted incorrect coverage maps.”

However, the FCC did not name any of the carriers that it said may have submitted incorrect mapping data. Several FCC officials refused to answer questions from FierceWireless on the topic.

At issue are the cellular coverage maps that the FCC is using to figure out where to spend the money in its Mobility Fund Phase II program. The program is designed to provide government money to private wireless carriers so that they will deploy wireless services in rural areas. However, before any money can be allocated, the FCC must first figure out what areas in the U.S. need wireless coverage. As a result, the agency is asking wireless operators to submit maps of their coverage areas.

A group of rural wireless operators earlier this year challenged the maps submitted by Verizon as being “grossly overstated.” Verizon rejected that argument in July and has pointed out that the rural carriers have a vested interest in shrinking its coverage map so that they can receive more government funding.