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T-Mobile to pay $19.5M fine related to 911 outage in June 2020


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) levied a $19.5 million fine on T-Mobile for a 911 outage that occurred on June 15, 2020. The outage lasted for 12 hours and 13 minutes, leading to congestion across T-Mobile’s 2G, 3G and 4G networks, and causing the complete failure of more than 23,000 911 calls. In addition, the outage caused more than 23,000 calls to go to 911 special facilities without location data and more than 20,000 calls to special facilities without call-back information. The FCC said some calls fell into more than one of these categories, and the numbers above cannot be summed to identify the total number of impacted calls.


The FCC’s rules require that wireless service providers, in the event of an outage lasting 30 minutes or more, notify the designated official at affected special facilities of the outage as soon as possible to help mitigate the effects of the disruption.


Apparently, T-Mobile waited more than two hours after the start of the outage to notify officials at “thousands” of potentially affected special facilities.


The initial cause of the outage was determined to be the brief failure of a leased fiber transport link in the T-Mobile network. The outage 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.


In October 2020, the FCC released a report of its investigation into T-Mobile’s 911 outage, determining T-Mobile didn’t follow network reliability best practices that could have avoided the more than 12-hour outage or prevented it from becoming an issue that affected customers across the country.


According to the FCC’s Consent Decree issued today, T-Mobile must pay the $19.5 million fine. In addition, the carrier was ordered to establish specific operating procedures and compliance checklists to ensure that future outages are handled more effectively.

The requirements set by the FCC basically dissect all the errors that occurred during the T-Mobile outage and attempt to establish procedures that will prevent the same mistakes from happening in the future.

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