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United States Businesses Communications

T-Mobile To Pay $40 Million Over False Ring Tones on Rural US Calls (reuters.com) 77

David Shepardson, writing for Reuters: T-Mobile USA agreed on Monday to pay $40 million to resolve a government investigation that found it failed to correct problems with delivering calls in rural areas and inserted false ring tones in hundreds of millions of calls, the Federal Communications Commission said. T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom, agreed to changes and acknowledged that it had injected false ring tones into hundreds of millions of long-distance rural calls, the FCC said, in violation of FCC rules.

False ring tones "cause callers to believe that the phone is ringing at the called party's premises when it is not," the FCC said, noting uncompleted calls "cause rural businesses to lose revenue, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications."

T-Mobile To Pay $40 Million Over False Ring Tones on Rural US Calls

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  • by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Monday April 16, 2018 @04:17PM (#56447959) Homepage

    What the hell is a false ring tone? My phone rings because T-Mobile asked it to?

    • Re:False ring tones? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cogeek ( 2425448 ) on Monday April 16, 2018 @04:21PM (#56447983)
      From the article, it's when a cell phone is not in range of service but someone calling it still hears a ring tone as though it's ringing on the other end of the line, rather than a "that device is not available currently. Please try back later" message.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Didn't think it was that uncommon. That was a problem when people thought that the phones on a downed airline [nbcnews.com] were still ringing for some reason.

      • From the article, it's when a cell phone is not in range of service but someone calling it still hears a ring tone as though it's ringing on the other end of the line, rather than a "that device is not available currently. Please try back later" message.

        Thanks, but why wouldn't the call just go to voicemail in those cases? (assuming voicemail was setup and enabled)

        • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Monday April 16, 2018 @04:51PM (#56448199) Homepage

          Because you're fraudulently leading the person to believe that there's no problem with the T-mobile customer's signal/reception and that they are just not answering.

          • The recorded message could say the device is unavailable and then redirect to voicemail...

            • That's absolutely right. And because they didn't, they were fined

              • That's absolutely right. And because they didn't, they were fined

                Seems pretty dumb, especially with the $40M fine. First-world company problems ... :-)

                • They were trying to cover up that their customers weren't actually getting service they were paying for. They collected more than $40M from affected rural customers in service fees - totally fair.

                • by fazig ( 2909523 )
                  Yeah, it was pretty dumb of T-Mobile to do this and getting caught. They knew the rules in the US and that punitive damages can be quite high.
                  • you can get ringtones using some youtube to mp3 [youtubemp3org.me] website too... and then it'll be some none-stop beyonce song going... thanks, t-mobile! =)
                  • Yeah, it was pretty dumb of T-Mobile to do this and getting caught. They knew the rules in the US and that punitive damages can be quite high.

                    They (the actual humans who work there) also know that annual bonuses are profit driven, and that those bonuses are rarely clawed back when it turns out those profits were delivered along with a ticking time bomb hidden under the floor boards.

                    Executive bonuses can be fabulously remunerative. Gaming internal performance metrics is also open season.

                    These slap-on-the-co

                    • by epine ( 68316 )

                      Furthermore, in game theoretic terms, the upside is all the unethical scams combined, and the downside is only those which you eventually get caught (and these with a fat net-present-value depreciation term).

                      This is why the controlling stakeholders set up bonus conditions that the senior executive ranks can game to their personal advantage.

                      The fines on the ones you don't get away with simply aren't large enough (historically) to deter a general ethos of catch while catch can.

                      It's an extremely tough problem

      • From the article, it's when a cell phone is not in range of service but someone calling it still hears a ring tone as though it's ringing on the other end of the line, rather than a "that device is not available currently. Please try back later" message.

        But my understanding is you're not charged for the call unless it is answered. We're they charging people for these calls? Otherwise, why the $40 million dollar penalty?

        • The most "corporate" reason for doing it - and getting fined for it - that I can find is:

          If someone calls a rural area T-Mobile pays the receiving carrier. A lot of these are a scam and charge extremely high rates.

          It's also, basically, a lie. If you hear a ring, you expect that the other person's phone is ringing. If it isn't, that's false information, regardless of whether the customer ends up paying for the call or not.

          The FCC said false ring tones “cause callers to believe that the phone is ringing at the called party’s premises when it is not.” The agency added that uncompleted calls “cause rural businesses to lose revenue, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications.”

      • we used to do that with landlines, back in the day. You'd connect to the dialling tone as fast as you could while you routed the call to its destination. The caller then thinks they're waiting for someone to pick up when they're in fact waiting for the routing to finish.
    • That is not the original meaning of Ring tone [wikipedia.org]. This refers to the sound a caller hears after dialing and thinks your phone is ringing.

    • If someone calls a rural area T-Mobile pays the receiving carrier. A lot of these are a scam and charge extremely high rates.

      Probably illegal not to route these calls, so T-Mobile found another way

      • This is a bit disconcerting - I suppose in this case they were fined because they were doing this in order to cover up their spotty coverage. As in it was malicious.

        But still a bit disconcerting as this is very common practice in telecom. I work with telecom VOIP gateways and almost all calls are SIP now and the protocols have methods that allow gateways to generate the ringing you hear before the other end connects and starts to generate the ring from the far side. This is so the caller doesn't just hea
        • I suppose in this case they were fined because they were doing this in order to cover up their spotty coverage. As in it was malicious.

          Other way around. They weren't playing the ringtown to people calling their customers from rural areas, they were playing the ringtone to their customers calling landlines in rural areas. read the comment you replied to again, they explained the reasoning quite aptly.

          • EIther way what I said still applies - doesn't matter who is calling whom - it is normal practice to generate ringtone back to the caller (no matter who they are or who they are calling) before the called numbers side connects and starts generating their own ringtone.
            • It does matter if you're going to accuse them of doing it to cover up spotty coverage. If you have no coverage, you get no ringtone because your call never connects to their network for them to fake the ringtone in the first place; suddenly, it matters who's calling who.
  • by MikeDataLink ( 536925 ) <mikeNO@SPAMmurraynet.net> on Monday April 16, 2018 @04:22PM (#56448001) Homepage Journal

    From the article:

    The FCC said false ring tones “cause callers to believe that the phone is ringing at the called party’s premises when it is not.” The agency added that uncompleted calls “cause rural businesses to lose revenue, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications.”

    TL;DR: They made your phone ring in the caller's ear, even though the call was probably not ringing at the receiver's end.

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Monday April 16, 2018 @04:41PM (#56448131)

    I'm a tmobile customer and frankly this has annoyed me. I've been hit by it when I have to travel out into the remote expanses where I'm roaming or in a weak tmobile signal area. It does ring but no voicemail nothing, just ring ring ring.. It's annoying as fuck.

    Now, I'm doubly pissed at tmobile but I'm also pissed that I'm not the one that'll be compensated for my trouble, it'll be the feds.. Why should they
    pocket the loot if I'm the guy that's been wronged?

    • The goal is to get T-Mobile to change their bad behavior, and if this fine gets them to do it (which, at $40M, seems like it might not...) then the goal is achieved, regardless of where the money goes.

      Most of the affected people will be non-T-Mobile customers; the only identification T-Mobile have is their phone numbers. Tracking down the owner of each phone number at the time of each call and mailing out who knows how many millions of checks would likely cost more than the fine amount, at which point you w

  • Routing tones... (Score:5, Informative)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday April 16, 2018 @04:43PM (#56448147)
    Problem is that the US network doesn't use separate routing tones, so there would have to be silence while the device is looked for. Other countries have routing tones that sound like a fast "dah-dah-dah-dah-dah" when the phone is being located or the call is being switched, only changing to a ring tone (often sounds like BEEEEEP-BEEEEEEP) when the phone is actually ringing.
    • well, actually, we do.

      There was a time the Nextel network would say "Please wait while the Nextel subscriber you called is located......... Please wait... etc" and then once the endpoint started ringing, ringing tones. It's just lazyness on the telecoms part.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    As someone who is involved with modern telecom, I can say that all ringtones are false. The tone used to be generated by the analog system when the high ring voltage was sent to the destination phone. Therefore all ringtones are false.

    The modern systems are supposed to start generating the tones once a connection is more or less established between the endpoints. This is often well before the destination endpoint actually generates the ring voltage (in the case of a real analog PSTN connection) or a tone

  • Luckily I have Cricket (AT&T) and it doesn't even work in my basement where the rec. room is (and me).
  • For '95 to '00 I was a consultant for Globalstar. One of the problems we faced was the phone was too quiet, people would think Something Went Wrong, and hang up. We solved it by replacing the nothing with white noise. Cost G* money to do so. Sending nothing cost nothing as we didn't have to setup/teardown a call, but for white noise we had to setup the call, send a packet of white noise, and teardown the call (think of knocking on a door, as opposed to putting mail in a mailbox).

    I guess they could c
  • I have a problem with a phone I put on pageplus it can't receive calls from any of our verizon wireless phones however it rings like normal it's just the pageplus phone doesn't actually ring (it does from any other carriers line).

    Verizon blames pageplus and pageplus blames verizon and nobody will fix it.

    Extra info
    The verizon wireless lines can call the pageplus phone successfully but only if they are either on VoLTE or roaming.
    Just to note pageplus uses verizon wireless network.

  • You pay FedEx to ship a package to BFE Nebraska. FedEx updates the tracking info to show the package delivered, but they really just tossed it in a dumpster because the didn't feel like driving that far.

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.

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