Tower upgrades no longer support unlocked phones (T-Mobile false advertising)

sherbert

    In my area T-Mobile upgraded the towers in May 2017. Ever since the upgrade my 3 unlocked phones only get a maximum speed of 2G. That's technically a downgrade because I used to get 3G and 4G fine for over 5 years. I know it's the tower upgrade because if I drive 40 minutes away I get 4G in areas with old tower technology. I am not happy at all because T-Mobile told me they can't explain why my phones stopped getting speeds higher than 2G in my area. My phones support all the bands and technology required to run on the T-Mobile network. They advertise it should work but it doesn't work so I am getting fed up with T-Mobile. T-Mobile tech support finally gave up and said I need to replace all 3 unlocked phones with T-Mobile branded phones to get 4G again. So T-Mobile is false advertising by saying unlocked phones with the bands they list will get 3G/4G.

     

    Does anyone know why T-Mobile decided to stop supporting unlocked phones? I don't understand the reason for doing this, upgrades are supposed to be backwards compatible.

     

    I have pretty new phones which are the Samsung A3 2016 and I am using the latest APN T-Mobile told me to use. I am wondering if anyone has had the Samsung A3 2017 get 4G on the new tower upgrade? I don't like the T-Mobile branded Samsung phones because I find them too heavy and large.

     

    Thanks

      All replies

      • drnewcomb2

        Which A3 models do you have, A320F/FL or A320Y? It would also help to know where you're located.

        I don't think T-Mobile is picking on you because you have an unlocked phone. They may be rearranging their bands in your market.

        The A320F/FL does not have band-4 LTE, which may be limiting what the phone can do. The A320/Y has both band-2 & 4.

          • sherbert

            Hi,

             

            Thanks you are the first person to make sense of all this! The problem started happening in May 2017 for the area of zipcode 06825.

             

            I believe what you are saying is T-Mobile used to support “UMTS” but T-Mobile is dropping UMTS support so the new tower upgrades only support LTE which is why mine isn’t working anymore. My phones support the bands for UMTS but not LTE.

             

            I actually have the 2016 version which is SM-A310F. These are the frequencies.

            https://www.frequencycheck.com/models/vn24x/samsung-sm-a310f-galaxy-a3-2016-td-lte

             

            If I'm following this correctly that means if I buy the “A320Y” version it will work. These are the frequencies.

            https://www.frequencycheck.com/models/vn28R/samsung-sm-a320y-ds-galaxy-a3-2017-duos-td-lte

             

            So this means I have to make sure an unlocked phone has band 2 and 4 for “LTE”. My problem is T-Mobile no longer supports UMTS not that they are unlocked.

             

            T-Mobile should make that clearer on this page, it’s unclear right now that those bands have to be LTE and that UMTS is no longer supported starting 2017.

            https://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-1265

             

            Thanks for the help

              • drnewcomb2

                sherbert wrote:

                 

                I believe what you are saying is T-Mobile used to support “UMTS” but T-Mobile is dropping UMTS support so the new tower upgrades only support LTE which is why mine isn’t working anymore. My phones support the bands for UMTS but not LTE.

                 

                I actually have the 2016 version which is SM-A310F. These are the frequencies.

                https://www.frequencycheck.com/models/vn24x/samsung-sm-a310f-galaxy-a3-2016-td-lte

                 

                If I'm following this correctly that means if I buy the “A320Y” version it will work. These are the frequencies.

                https://www.frequencycheck.com/models/vn28R/samsung-sm-a320y-ds-galaxy-a3-2017-duos-td-lte

                 

                So this means I have to make sure an unlocked phone has band 2 and 4 for “LTE”. My problem is T-Mobile no longer supports UMTS not that they are unlocked.

                 

                T-Mobile should make that clearer on this page, it’s unclear right now that those bands have to be LTE and that UMTS is no longer supported starting 2017.

                https://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-1265

                 

                Thanks for the help

                 

                First off, HSPA & HSPA+ are extensions of the UMTS standard for higher speed data. AFAIK, a phone that has UMTS will still work on an HSPA(+) network. HSPA+ is what T-Mobile calls "4G" but is really 3.5G.

                 

                The specs you point to for the SM-A310F clearly show that it's a primarily Euro-Asian version, not really intended for use in North America. The US UMTS bands it supports are 2 & 5. AFAIK, T-Mobile does not have any UMTS band-5,  so only band-2 will be applicable.

                 

                The only US LTE band it supports is band-5. T-Mobile has band-5 LTE in exactly one market: Myrtle Beach, SC.  So, this phone is very marginal for use with T-Mobile (USA). It would probably work better on AT&T or one of their MVNOs (e.g. Cricket) as they have extensive UMTS band-5 & 2.

                 

                The A320Y would be a decent phone for T-Mobile. I would not turn it down if someone gave me one. But as for buying it now, it lacks LTE band-12, which is T-Mobile's only current low-band frequency, providing extended range and building "penetration". In the future, you'll want to look for a phone with band-71, which will be T-Mobile's new low-band addition, greatly increasing in-building and rural service possibilities.

                 

                Anyway, T-Mobile is currently maintaining support for HSPA+/UMTS in markets where it's been in service, but reserves the right to change bands or reduce the amount of spectrum allocated to (depreciate) that service. At least I have not heard of them shutting down HSPA+/UMTS in any existing market. They very seldom install HSPA+ (or GSM) in any new markets. All new coverage in N & S Dakota seems to be LTE. The only HSPA+ in all of the new N. Mich. coverage is in Traverse City (AFAIK).

                  • sherbert

                    Thanks for all this information it has been very helpful. That is good to know about the LTE band-12. I've always been happy with using phones with HSPA+/UMTS which I know wasn't the fastest or best but gave me fast H+ speeds in most scenarios. Sounds like I can sell the phones since they will work on other networks.

                     

                    For anyone also having a similar problem. T-Mobile definitely just changed something that stopped 3 of my HSPA+/UMTS phones from getting H+ (3.5G speeds) in CT area. I only get an "E" (Edge) speed now which is barley usable now a days. So that is something to keep in mind if they have those kind of phones. Also keep in mind I've used HSPA+/UMTS phones with T-Mobile for at least 5 years without any problems till now in this area but I'll make sure I switch to phones with supported LTE bands from now on. Employees in T-Mobile stores told me a recent tower upgrade caused this. Seems like the case.

                     

                    Thanks

                     

                     

                      • stevetjr

                        sherbert wrote:

                         

                         

                        For anyone also having a similar problem. T-Mobile definitely just changed something that stopped 3 of my HSPA+/UMTS phones from getting H+ (3.5G speeds) in CT area. I only get an "E" (Edge) speed now which is barley usable now a days. So that is something to keep in mind if they have those kind of phones. Also keep in mind I've used HSPA+/UMTS phones with T-Mobile for at least 5 years without any problems till now in this area but I'll make sure I switch to phones with supported LTE bands from now on. Employees in T-Mobile stores told me a recent tower upgrade caused this. Seems like the case.

                         

                        Thanks

                         

                         

                         

                        What they probably changed is what is referred to as "re-farming" which is essential as drnewcomb2 mentioned rearranging their bands.  Being as the phone you mention doesn't have Band 4 but has Band 2 suggests that your area is one of the markets they had to re-farm because of spectrum allocation.  In most markets Band 4 is T-Mobile's primary LTE band and has the most bandwidth which is usually 10x10 or in the case of my city (ATL) 20x20.  However their are some markets where they couldn't get that much Band 4 but rather Band 2 was their widest channels.  Since LTE is now the primary data method what they did in these markets was move HSPA+ off Band 2 to allow it to be better utilized for LTE and moved it to Band 4 which was the smaller channel in that market. 

                         

                        Most T-Mobile branded phones and a lot of GSM based US unlocked phones supported both 2 and 4 so generally not an issue but based on the link to your model, it looks like it doesn't have Band 4 so when they moved it you lost it.

                         

                        If you have a device that supports UMTS/HSPA+ on Band 2 and 4 and LTE Band 2,4,12 (and eventually 71) you shouldn't ever have any issues unless of course you are in Myrtle Beach and your phone doesn't support Band 5 :-)

                          • sherbert

                            It sounds like you are correct. That would explain why the T-Mobile phone tech support said they didn't show any upgrades in our area but then the T-Mobile store employees kept telling me they upgraded the towers.  I kept getting different info from T-Mobile employees which was frustrating, but re-farming would make sense and kind of explains why they didn't see upgrades on the map.

                             

                            Thanks

                              • drnewcomb2

                                In the Fairfield CT license area T-Mobile has 25x25 MHz of AWS (band-4) and 10x10 MHz of PCS (band-2). Since the largest LTE bandwidth for AWS is 20 MHz, that extra 5x5 MHz is orphaned. The most efficient allocation for UMTS and LTE would be 20x20 LTE band-4 plus 10x10 LTE on band-2, then 5x5 UMTS on band-4. Another option would be UMTS & GSM compressed into a single 5x5 band-2 block and everything else LTE. Since they are still running GSM, I suspect it's 5x5 GSM in PCS plus 5x5 LTE and then 20x20 band-4 LTE and 5x5 HSPA in band-4. This does not make a lot of sense to me as I'd believe it would be immaterial if the HSPA+ was in band-2 or 4, it might as well be next to the GSM, rather than off in the AWS band.