T-Mobile, the third largest wireless network in the United States, is blamed for the death of an infant and adult male. This week, on two separate occasions, deaths resulted because of a glitch in the network’s 911 calling option known as ghost call. The error has plagued T-Mobile users since November 2016 and has quickly risen from an annoyance to deadly.
The US region of T-Mobile provides data services, messaging and wireless voice, in the USA, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico under the T-Mobile, GoSmart, and MetroPCS Mobile brands. As of 2011, the company is ranked highest for wireless customer care two years consecutively and number three among major wireless carriers for retail-store satisfaction four consecutive years by a global marketing-information-services firm. After the recent deaths, including a six-month-old baby, the statistics may soon change.
Both tragedies occurred in Texas. The troubled wireless network has sent their top engineers to Dallas in hopes of rectifying the problem. When reporting on the “ghost call” issue, Dallas Morning News described it as follows:
When a T-Mobile customer calls 911 in Dallas, the publication says that the phone will continuously dial 911 and the call center registers them as hang-ups. The 911 dispatchers need to then call the numbers back to verify the calls, which in turn means legitimate callers are placed on hold.
The city says the problem is 911 operators have to call back every number that registers as a hang up just to figure out if there is a true emergency. The phone issue has been going on for months. On March 11, the night little Brandon Alex died; the glitch left 442 callers on hold for an average of 38 minutes.
Bridget Alex is left devastated after losing her son due to the 911 T-Mobile problem. Brandon’s babysitter was put on hold for more than 30 minutes as the infant’s life hung in the balance. Bridget’s son was left in the custody of her cousin so she could attend the funeral of her 19-year-old nephew, who was murdered a week prior. At some point, Brandon fell and would not respond, the babysitter desperately tried to call 911 but due to the wireless network’s unfortunate glitch, she could not get through to an operator. The grieving mother said:
I lost my 6-month-old because 911 did not respond. There’s no excuse that you can give me to take that pain away.
In another deadly instance, it took 20 minutes for the husband of 52-year-old Brian Cross to get through to a dispatcher after dialing 911. When Cross finally arrived at a local hospital, within an hour the 52-year-old was pronounced dead. It is not clear if this is solely the company’s fault, but the CEO John Legere said that engineers would “stay in the city until the issue is resolved.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings said it is encouraging that T-Mobile finally sent top engineers to Dallas. He also advised the city not to hang up if this happens to them when calling 911. He added:
It is outrageous that T-Mobile still has not resolved the ghost call issue that is putting Dallasites in danger by clogging our 911 system. This issue not only puts paying T-Mobile customers at risk, but it jeopardizes the safety of people throughout our city.
This is not the company’s first 911 defect. According to the Federal Communications Commission, in 2015, T-Mobile US Inc paid $17.5 million to settle a U.S. investigation of two 911 service outages from the previous year that prevented callers from reaching first responders for three hours. The FCC said its investigators found that T-Mobile did not notify affected 911 call centers in a timely manner and that better safeguards in the company’s 911 network architecture would have prevented the outages.
As the wireless company hastens to fix the issue, T-Mobile is blamed for the death of the infant and an adult. The victims of this horrible situation are Brandon who was six-months-old and Brian who died at 52. These tragedies may have been avoided if the wireless company had hastened to resolve the 911 glitch when first notified that it existed.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
CW33: T-Mobile crews in Dallas fixing 911 glitch after baby died
NBC Universal: Mobile Executives Tackle Dallas 911 Problem After Deaths Blamed on Call Delays
Opposing Views: Mom Says Her Baby Died Because Of A T-Mobile Glitch
Engadget: T-Mobile ‘ghost calls’ to 911 linked to two deaths in Dallas
Top Image Courtesy of Bridget Alex/Facebook
Inline Image Courtesy of Scary Side of Earth – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Mike Mozart – Flickr License