A new FCC study confirms what most people already knew: when it comes to wireless coverage maps, your mobile carrier is often lying to you.
If you head to any major wireless carrier website, you’ll be inundated with claims of coast to coast, uniform availability of wireless broadband. But, as countless studies have shown, these claims usually have only a tenuous relation to reality, something you’ve likely noticed if you’ve ever driving across the country or stopped by mobile carrier forums.
But just how bad is the disconnect? A new FCC study released this week suggests that wireless carriers may be lying about mobile coverage 40 percent of the time or more.
The full study, part of the FCC’s efforts to beef up wireless subsidies ahead of fifth-generation (5G) deployments, states that FCC engineers measured real-world network performance across 12 states. Staffers conducted a total of 24,649 tests while driving more than 10,000 miles.
The results weren’t pretty.
“Only 62.3% of staff drive tests achieved at least the minimum download speed predicted by the coverage maps—with U.S. Cellular achieving that speed in only 45.0% of such tests, T-Mobile in 63.2% of tests, and Verizon in 64.3% of tests,” the FCC said.
And while carriers have historically claimed they offer faster 4G LTE service to the vast majority of the country, the FCC found that wasn’t actually true either.
“Staff was unable to obtain any 4G LTE signal for 38% of drive tests on U.S. Cellular’s network, 21.3% of drive tests on T-Mobile’s network, and 16.2% of drive tests on Verizon’s network, despite each provider reporting coverage in the relevant area,” the agency said.