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Blog, News

May 21, 2020

The Wireless Industry Responds to COVID-19

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    This post was last updated on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. ET. We will continue to share updates here on Access Wireless and on the CTIA website.

    The wireless industry knows how critical it is to stay connected during this time. As all of our daily lives are significantly altered, we are all relying more on our wireless service to stay in touch with loved ones, school, work and the news.

    Thanks to substantial and ongoing efforts, wireless networks are performing well, and we are taking the steps needed to maintain operations, keep our customers connected, and our employees safe.

    Read below to learn more about how the wireless industry is responding to this unprecedented challenge.

    For specific information from your provider, including up-to-date information about store hours and in-person services, please visit:

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    Preserving Service to Impacted Communities

    In close coordination with the FCC, the nation’s largest operators (AT&T, T-Mobile, Tracfone, U.S. Cellular and Verizon) committed to the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. The pledge ensures that for the next 60 days, consumers and small business that can’t pay their bills because of the pandemic will not be terminated or assessed late fees.

    We’re committed to serving our customers and continuing to provide access to the world’s most reliable wireless networks.
    Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA President & CEO
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    Network Performance

    The wireless industry is taking all necessary steps to maintain our networks as Americans increase their reliance on wireless service to stay connected, continue learning and work from home.

    To provide insight into how these networks are performing, CTIA is now reporting changes in voice and data traffic on a weekly basis. This information draws on the work of engineers at AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon who are closely monitoring their networks and making adjustments to address shifting demand.

    Below is data for the most recent week.

    A bar graph with two vertical rectangles shows the range of increase for voice minutes and data use, reported by the top 4 wireless providers. The red rectangle on the left shows voice minutes have increased from 8.5% to 14.4% and the purple rectangle on the right shows that data use increased from negative -2.8% to 8.2%. Text to the right of the graph explains this is a range increase in voice minutes and data use for Monday, May 18th, compared to the average of Mondays from February 24th to March 16th.
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    A bar graph with two vertical rectangles shows the range of increase for voice minutes and data use, reported by the top 4 wireless providers. The red rectangle on the left shows voice minutes have increased from 8.5% to 14.4% and the purple rectangle on the right shows that data use increased from negative -2.8% to 8.2%. Text to the right of the graph explains this is a range increase in voice minutes and data use for Monday, May 18th, compared to the average of Mondays from February 24th to March 16th.

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    Expanding Capacity

    We know you are relying on us now more than ever, and we are ready. The U.S. wireless industry invests over $20 billion each year to meet your needs, and we are working hard right now to increase network capacity and provide consumers with more mobile data. Operators have announced hundreds of millions in new investment and other innovative solutions, and the largest six operators are keeping public Wi-Fi hotspots open for unserved Americans.

    • T-Mobile will shift consumers on metered data plans to unlimited data plus 20GB of mobile hotspot data. T-Mobile also announced it is extending its commitment through June 30 to offer support for customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • AT&T announced that through June 30 it will waive domestic wireless plan overage charges for data, voice or text for residential or small business wireless customers incurred because of economic hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Through June 30, Verizon announced that it will waive data overage charges for residential and small business wireless customers whose economic circumstances have been impacted due to COVID-19. The carrier also automatically added an additional 15GB of 4G LTE data to consumer and small business shared data plans, hotspots and jetpacks to be used from May 1 through May 31.
    • U.S. Cellular announced it is providing its Unlimited Everyday and Even Better Plan customers with an extra 15GB of hotspot data to adjust to shifting and varying work arrangements. Through July 31, 2020, U.S. Cellular customers on any plan will continue to have the data they need and not be charged any overages.
    • Boost Mobile will automatically provide customers currently on tiered plans with an additional 20GBs of data on their plans and free international calling to nearly 50 countries at no extra cost through April 30, 2020.
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    Putting Spectrum to Work

    We have also seen unprecedented efforts to put more spectrum in use to prepare for millions of Americans working and learning from home, and applaud the FCC for moving forward so quickly to help connect more consumers.

    • T-Mobile announced new 600 MHz roaming deals to expand capacity with DISH, Comcast, Spectrum Financial Partners and others.
    • U.S. Cellular gained access to AWS-3 spectrum to help meet increased customer demand for mobile broadband in 19 states.
    • Verizon gained access to AWS-3 spectrum to provide additional mobile broadband capacity.
    • AT&T announced new access to AWS-4 and 700 MHz spectrum to better serve consumers, including in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    • Bluegrass Cellular gained access to AWS-1 spectrum to increase network capacity in Kentucky.
    • Union Wireless gained access to AWS-1 spectrum to expand capacity in Wyoming.
    Chairman Pai and the FCC deserve special credit for acting so quickly to give the wireless industry access to the spectrum capacity we need to serve Americans.
    Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA President & CEO
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    Low Income Support

    Wireless providers are also expanding options and increasing mobile data for low-income consumers, including through their Lifeline partners and programs, during this period. And other members are contributing to the hardest hit communities in other ways.

    • Tracfone will provide all of its SafeLink Lifeline customers with data capable phones an additional 5GB of data per month through the end of June. It is also giving SafeLink customers unlimited talk and three free telehealth visits per month with a licensed healthcare professional through a partnership with Doc.com. Plan enhancements have also been launched for customers on other Tracfone brands.
    • T-Mobile will expand Lifeline low-income access to 5GB per month, and in response to the crisis, it launched T-Mobile Connect launched ahead of schedule, offering consumers for unlimited talk and text plus 2GB high-speed smartphone data for $15 per month.
    • In April 2020, Cellular One’s Lifeline customers received an additional 10GB of data and unlimited voice, free of charge.
    • Samsung has given back to their workforce and the communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, donating $29 million worth of resources to help with relief efforts, including the purchase of medical supplies and hygiene kits.
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    Education Support

    Millions of children are home and we want to ensure those kids can keep learning with wireless tools and great educational resources. The wireless industry is expanding existing industry-leading efforts to connected unserved and underserved communities.

    This includes the new Connecting Kids Initiative, a resource for schools and school districts to help keep kids learning in these unprecedented times. Schools districts are encouraged to submit their connectivity needs, and we will help connect them to wireless operators in their communities.

    • AT&T announced that qualified schools activating new lines on qualified data-only plans for school-issued tablets, 4G LTE-enabled laptops and hotspot devices will get unlimited wireless data service at no cost for 60 days. It also committed $1.2M small businesses focused on distance learning solutions.
    • Verizon has tripled its monthly data allowance for Verizon Innovative Learning Tier 1 middle schools and has committed $10 million to nonprofits directed at supporting students and first responders. Verizon will also provide Internet connectivity for all students in the Los Angeles Unified School District who don’t have it at home.
    • The 1Million Project Foundation provides connections for high school students who lack critical home broadband. Data allotments will double to 20GB through June, onboarding another 100,000 new devices for unserved students has been accelerated.
    • Intel pledged more than $50 million in a pandemic response technology initiative to combat the disease through accelerating access to technology at the point of patient care, speeding scientific research and ensuring access to online learning for students.
    • Ericsson partnered with the Vermont Telephone Company and Rutland City Public Schools to equip students in rural Vermont with access to free high-speed Internet and Google Chromebooks.
    • T-Mobile is increasing the data allowance to 20GB/month for free to schools and students using their EmpowerED digital learning programs.
    • AT&T is also underwriting an online resource for eLearning Days from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). AT&T also announced a new $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections fund, including contributions to Kahn Academy and funding 60 free days of the Caribu app.
    • Since April 1, Smith Bagley, Inc. has delivered more than 1,300 access points to 10 schools (either MiFi or smartphones as needed), with 6,600 potential more devices in the pipeline. It also introduced an unlimited data plan at a significantly reduced cost for schools.

    Read more about how the wireless industry is committed to connecting America’s students.

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    Fighting Spam

    Scammers have taken advantage of the feeling of global uncertainty and are increasingly sending malicious emails, calls and texts about COVID-19. During this crisis, the wireless industry will continue to fight to protect consumers and their data from bad actors, and we encourage consumers to do the same.

    When scams hit close to home, how can you and your family avoid falling victim? Simply put—whether via call, text or email, do not give personal information to anyone you don’t know.

    Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and those close to you from COVID-19-related scams:

    • Be wary of offers for vaccinations or other treatments. The FTC and FDA have said there are no home products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
    • Do not share personal or financial information via email, text or over the phone, and visit only trusted websites to stay informed, apply for aid or donate money.
    • Do not click on text or email links that seem suspicious or are from sources you don’t know.
    • Report suspected spam to your carrier, the FTC and/or the FCC.
      • Forward spam text messages to 7726 (or SPAM).
      • File a complaint online with the FTC or FCC, or call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP and the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC.
    • And if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam, report the activity to local law enforcement immediately and take steps to protect your data.

    Visit the FCC and FTC for more information on COVID-19-related scams and our page for how to stop illegal robocalls and texts.

    Want to learn even more about robocalls? Click here to visit the CTIA robocalls resource page.

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    Prioritizing Safety

    Wireless providers are supporting our public safety officials and mitigating risks for employees through actions like implementing remote working when possible and providing additional paid time off for sickness or caregiving. AT&T and Verizon also announced increased pay and other enhancements for those employees on the front lines.

    AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all partnered with iHeartMedia to deliver thousands of phone chargers to hospitals so that COVID-19 patients can charge their phones.

    Nokia is helping supply critical protective equipment, like face shields, and donate supplies for medical staff around the world.

    As of May 18, 2020, more than 250 Wireless Emergency Alerts have been issued to provide consumers with critical information related to COVID-19.

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    Consumer Tips

    This situation is changing rapidly. We are regularly updating the following list of relevant government, and industry resources to address whatever questions and concerns you may have.

    Cleaning Wireless Devices. It is important to keep your devices clean. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides recommendations for cleaning high-touch surfaces such as phones and other mobile devices. AppleGoogle and Samsung also provide instructions for how to safely disinfect their products, and consumers should check their user’s manuals for care and cleaning instructions.

    Discounted Service. Wireless service is a vital tool, particularly during emergencies. Consumers who are concerned about affording wireless service during this time should determine whether they are eligible for the FCC’s Lifeline or state programs that provide discounts. Wireless providers, such as T-Mobile, are working through their Lifeline program and partners to provide low-income consumers with extra data during this period.

    Cynthia Tested!
    1400 16th St NW, #600, Washington, DC 20036(202) 736-3200
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