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Here's what I suspect may be happening. Look at the T139's specs:
So, it's like this. T-Mobile only uses GSM 2G 850 when roaming and maybe in the Myrtle Beach, SC market. This leaves you with only 1900 MHz 2G. T-Mobile is really moving forward and not spending a lot of time and effort looking back. In many markets they are reducing 3G/"4G" to a minimum (or nothing), converting the spectrum to LTE and shoving 2G GSM into a tiny sliver of the LTE guardbands, leaving just a vestigial 2G service. I'm sorry but your old flip phone's days are numbered. AT&T turned off all 2G service last New Year. T-Mobile is supporting only a remnant of the former service. The bad thing is that they really don't seem to offer a replacement for people who like flip phones.