Psst, T-Mobile, your AT&T is showing

When I moved to San Francisco from the east coast four years ago, one of the first things I did was switch to T-Mobile. The smartphone market wasn’t as booming as it is today but I had noticed that the handsets offered overseas were just better than the offerings than the US. There were a handful of unlocked phones I wanted to use so I decided to find the right GSM carrier for me.

T-Mobile was the only choice I had, as I never wanted to use AT&T in this city (those of you who live here and are on AT&T know what I mean) and since Magenta was the cheapest, it was the one for me. In four years, any issue I’ve ever had with the carrier has been solved lickity split, with little to no hassle on my end.  The one time I attempted to leave T-Mobile, it was to go back to Verizon for the original Motorola Droid, which I liked but there were some issues “that shouldn’t happen but if it does happen, there’s no way to fix it,” so I naturally went back to T-Mobile and signed up for the Even More Plus plan. Ya know, just in case.

T-Mobile may be the smallest for the four largest carriers in the US today and that may be why it has been able to provide the top-notch customer service it’s known for.  When I heard that AT&T would  be acquiring the only carrier I desired to  use, I knew I’d be leaving at some point. Then the T-Mobile G2X came along and I decided to finance the thing and wait until that unfortunate day finally happened, and only then I would leave.

Recently, I’ve been having issues with my data connection on my G2X when on HSPA+. My coverage was never all that awesome, but at some point Magenta did flip the switch for its “4G” network in my neighborhood. It rarely resulted in the speeds I would see downtown but I no longer had to stare at that EDGE symbol atop of my screen, mocking me.

It was about a month ago that I had noticed my not so great HSPA+ connection became down right unusable at times. Since I’m usually always connected to my home WiFi network,  I dismissed it and thought it was just some heavy congestion within the network itself and thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until last week that I tried to test my speeds on the network and noticed my already bad connection was deteriorating. I immediately went online to make sure I wasn’t over my data limit, and of course, I wasn’t, so I decided to call the trusty customer service that T-Mobile has always provided me.

Average speed test results in my neighborhood

Just five blocks away

I explained my situation to customer service, saying that my download speed seems to be unhealthily low but my upload speed seems to be fine.  The CS rep informed me that I was still using a 2G SIM card and that I should upgrade to the 3G SIM card (which he said would be free for me), which sounded reasonable enough but first he wanted to reset the network connection to my phone. This actually yielded slower speeds than before after the reset. So he told me to go grab the 3G SIM card. He did inform me, though, with resistance, that if that doesn’t fix everything that there may be something wrong with the tower.  So, off I go to get my 3G SIM card at the closest T-Mobile store.  The entire transaction took five minutes and after the quick swap, off I went.

When I got home I immediately launched the SpeedTest app and to my dismay, there was no change. At this point I began to think that my G2X was defective and since my warranty has been voided from hacking the crap out of the day I got it, I was SOL. So I decided to call customer service again. The CS Rep was very nice and told me to use a speed test website that T-Mobile uses instead of the SpeedTest app. I did. It sucked still. So I had to file a service ticket in regards to the network connection to my phone, which I wasn’t completely sold was the issue at this point. I was informed it would take up to three days before I received a response, so I played the waiting game for two days.

On the second day I got the myTouch 4G Slide to review and decided to try out the SpeedTest app on it. Same shit. Horrible download speed with a semi-normal to normal upload speed. Call to customer service number three: I explained everything and now it’s definitely not the issue with my G2X but the tower and maybe I was just too far away from it. The customer service rep told me that the closest active tower was actually right across the street from where I lived. Sure enough, there it was. Service ticket number two was filed, and the CS rep was nice enough to say he would call me over the weekend to keep me updated with what was happening.

That never happened. Thanks for that.

Now it’s been a week since the whole ordeal and T-Mobile hasn’t contacted me in any way. I almost decided to let it go but then realized, “wait, I’m paying for this shitty service.” In the four years that I’ve been with T-Mobile, I’ve never dropped a call. In the past week, I’ve dropped two calls while at my house  now on both the myTouch 4G Slide and G2X, and it’s hard to hear the other end of the call because I’m almost deafened by the echo of my voice I’ve begun to hear.

T-Mobile will happily fix any problem you have, given it can be done on a computer. Now let’s just think about how any of this will be handled when AT&T is holding the reins. Or is that already happening?

If the issue is actually solved within a timely manner, I’ll update this post. Since that likely won’t happen, I’ll probably be jumping ship from Magenta sooner rather than later. Sprint Galaxy S 2, please be announced soon, k?

  • Pavel

    welcome to my world. I am  with T-Mobile for last 8 years and I always had a great service in my area in San Francisco (Twin Peaks) . However, some day in February 2010 – I started having same issues – dropped calls, slow speed on data, connection in and out. When I called customer service – they were nice like always, however, I have been told, it is my old SIM card, after that I had to reset my phone etc. Finally, I have been told, the problem is with a tower in my area. I call periodically to check, if the tower has been fixed – each time I’ll get the same message. The technicians are aware of the problem and working on it. It is now 17 months later and no change. Same crappy service where I live. And I also have been told – we will call you back to check on the issue – Hahaah, they never did.

  • Jarrod

    It could be possible if it started recently they could be prepping the tower with HSPA+ 42, they did that in my area in Houston and the service was bad for a weak then it came back even better

  • Anonymous

    switching to Sprint won’t solve much. their 3G speeds on avg. are 100-500kbps and you’d have to be one lucky SOB to get residential 4G coverage. pcmag just finished a nationwide speedtest and Sprint rocked that shit with 300kbps. every carrier has outages and service issues. including Verizon… you act as if the service has always been bad.

  • Anonymous

    switching to Sprint won’t solve much. their 3G speeds on avg. are 100-500kbps and you’d have to be one lucky SOB to get residential 4G coverage. pcmag just finished a nationwide speedtest and Sprint rocked that shit with 300kbps. every carrier has outages and service issues. including Verizon… you act as if the service has always been bad.

  • Anonymous

    It’s no surprise that T-Mobile will give you GPRS-like speeds on one block, and super fast HSPA+ speeds just a few blocks away. The problem isn’t limited to San Francisco: I’ve experienced the same exact issues in L.A. when I lived there, and in NYC where I’m currently based. In Brooklyn, I can easily get 7Mbps down in one neighborhood, and drop to 200kbps in another neighborhood just eight blocks away. It certainly isn’t the phone, and it most certainly isn’t a “2G SIM card.” It’s the network.

    • Anonymous

      Different cell tower, different amount of users per cell.. not all areas are created equal to where speed is going to be 10Mbps per cell tower, per sector (everyone is connected to the tower and gets their signal from “sectors” or the antenna array, one sector services people in that direction and the other 2 do the same)

      It happens to EVERY carrier. Not 1 is able to provide the same speed on each tower during every hour of the day in every city. Verizon LTE is a small exception because there aren’t enough subscribers yet to have such huge fluctuation is speed. Try using Verizon/Sprint/AT&T 3G in Downtown LA or similar. It WILL be a crapshoot..

  • Mo

    I called T-Mobile because I couldn’t even get a constant 3G service.
    It would go in and out every 9 seconds. My phone calls would get dropped after
    3-6 minutes. T-Mobile customer service said that I do not live in a “good 3G
    coverage area” and that “about half a mile away was a “better coverage area”.
    So I was advised to “go outside my house and work location to make calls, surf
    the web, and check my email”. What kind of crap is that? They even told me to
    go to that half a mile away from my house to get better service! WTF! Forget T-Mobile,
    I left their ass along with my three other lines for Verizon and paid that
    early termination fee. Can’t even get 3G and they are selling this 4G BS to all
    the retarded people out there.

  • Anonymous

    Let me try this again..

    T-Mobile phone reps much like Verizon phone reps don’t know much about local, 1 tower service issues. calling them will net you nothing but frustration. You would have more luck with a local store and even THEN they don’t know what is going on.

    Sprint 3G speed is regularly 50-500Kbps so, you’re not getting much of an upgrade there. MetroPCS is faster. WiMAX coverage is so weak you would be 1 in 10 to have it covering any residential area.

    Service outages happen and so do inconsistencies in coverage. To suggest that it’s because of AT&T is a joke. Check out the network discussion on all of the carrier forums including Sprint. They average about 20 posts a day of people complaining about sudden outages and slow speed.

    • Anonymous

      You’re right, suggesting that it is because of AT&T is a joke. I thought it was rather blatant, so yeah. Nonetheless, with an active tower literally across the street, there’s no excuse for the speeds I’m getting. I’m in a “very good” are on the coverage maps and customer service reps have been more than willing to say this.

      Sprint’s WiMAX performs much better where I live, managing to spit out an average of 3Mbs down. Guess I’m that 1 in ten.

      I’m just for the services I pay for to work, which doesn’t mean GPRS speeds.

      • Anonymous

        GPRS is 40Kbps down and 60Kbps up, you’re getting EDGE speed, not that it’s acceptable but please.. GPRS is worse.

        1 in 10 does give you a chance. WiMAX’s 2.5GHz signal is so bad that you need to be next to or in close vicinity of a tower to get coverage and I’m glad you are. Here’s to your losing coverage and falling back on the always slow Sprint 3G network in other places where you won’t be next to a WiMAX tower.

        Sensationalizing such a small issue as if outages and degradation in service are things that are limited to T-Mobile and affecting so many people is atrocious. Sorry you’re having service issues, but lets be real about it.. the issues you are having are limited to 1 tower. The issue probably being increasing demand, especially with it being a recently added 4G tower. The tower needs an increase in backhaul to suffice for the increase in data usage. I’ve seen it happen before. Instead of pouting about how horrible this is, noting that you “Use WiFi” at home, disable 3G and go on about your business until they beef up the backhaul on this newer HSPA tower. An EDGE only tower requires very little backhaul to operate and if they upgraded it to 3G without increasing backhaul enough bandwidth will be low until they do so. This is NOT an excuse but a reason why.

        • Anonymous

          It’s definitely an active HSPA+ tower. Yeah, it’s a sensationalized post but I just want my shit to work as it should. That is all. GPRS or EDGE. I don’t care. I don’t want to pay for crap.

        • Lucky Sprint is launching devices and upgrading their towers to use the SMR band.  The EVO 3D is the first phone with the new chipset.  Coverage will be better all around.  As far as WiMAX, it allowed Sprint to beat the other carriers to market, and it is just a software upgrade away from LTE.  Sprint was smart to be the first with 4G.

  • d1andonly

    try calling *fix

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