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T-Mobile to settle U.S. probe into 911 outage for $19.5 million

Christian Fernsby |
T-Mobile USA has agreed to settle a U.S. probe for $19.5 million after an outage led to more than 20,000 failed 911 emergency calls.

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The Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission has entered into a Consent Decree to resolve its investigation into whether T-Mobile USA, Inc. failed to comply with the Commission’s 911 rules.

These rules require wireless providers to reasonably design and operate their networks to ensure reliable transmission of all 911 calls, including providing 911 call back information and 911 location information, to public safety answering points (PSAPs), and to timely notify potentially affected PSAPs of reportable 911 outages.

To settle this matter, T-Mobile will pay a $19,500,000 settlement payment and will implement a compliance plan.

Notably, the compliance measures contain new commitments by T-Mobile to improve the 911 outage notices given to PSAPs, including providing PSAPs with a wide array of information about the outages and providing follow-up notices within two hours of the initial outage notifications.

"After reviewing the terms of the Consent Decree and evaluating the facts before us, we find that the public interest would be served by adopting the Consent Decree and terminating the referenced investigation regarding T-Mobile’s compliance with the Commission’s 911 rules, including sections 4.9, 9.4, and 9.10 of the Commission’s rules," FCA says.

"In the absence of material new evidence relating to this matter, we do not set for hearing the question of T-Mobile’s basic qualifications to hold or obtain any Commission license or authorization."

On June 15, 2020, at 12:33 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST),8 a 12 hour and 13 minute outage began that led to congestion across T-Mobile’s 4G, 3G and 2G networks, and caused the complete failure of more than 23,000 911 calls,9 more than 23,000 calls to 911 without location.

At 2:41 pm, T-Mobile initiated mass 911 outage notifications to the thousands of potentially affected PSAPs, which warned that delivery of location information may be affected. The notifications also stated that “911 calls are still completing.”

After the outage was resolved, a final notification was sent. The initial cause of the outage was the brief failure of a leased fiber transport link in the T-Mobile network.

The outage revealed, and was compounded by, a temporary routing flaw in a single location and two previously undetected flaws in third party software. Restoration was also impacted by a temporary failure of remote access to the affected transport link.

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