Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

royal76

    I have had several lines under my account with T-Mobile for a few years now. I never really had much of a complaint about the coverage or service until hurricane Irma hit south eastern Florida. I have several people in my circle that have T-Mobile and we were unable to contact each other because the network went down very early during. Now four days later in some areas there is no coverage and in other areas very poor. However, many of us realized that most Verizon and AT&T customers never lost coverage. Why was T-Mobile's network not as reliable?

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      • drnewcomb2

        Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

        Several reasons. Keep in mind that a cellular network, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link.

        1. Towers get damaged. Antennas are particularly susceptible to being knocked out of alignment.
        2. T-Mobile does not necessarily back up all macro-cells with generators. A lot of sites depend strictly on batteries for backup power. After about 8 hours, they're done.
        3. T-Mobile has been very creative on finding ways to save money on backhaul. Rather than getting expensive backhaul from the local phone company, T-Mobile may get their backhaul from the cable provider or a 3rd-party fiber company. These providers charge a lot less but don't always have the resiliency of the local landline phone company.

         

        BTW, the chatter on chat groups indicates that AT&T performed fairly poorly but Verizon generally held up well. No word on Sprint.

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          • royal76

            Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

            I understand how cellular networks work. My Internet service is through my local cable provider here in southwest Miami-Dade which never went down. Yet, T-Mobile went down very early. Additionally, I can't speak for "chatter", but I personally know 7 AT&T wireless customers in my area that never lost service.

              • tidbits

                Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                royal76 wrote:

                 

                I understand how cellular networks work. My Internet service is through my local cable provider here in southwest Miami-Dade which never went down. Yet, T-Mobile went down very early. Additionally, I can't speak for "chatter", but I personally know 7 AT&T wireless customers in my area that never lost service.

                Your cables lines are below ground iirc.  Also the main hub may not have been directly impacted by the hurricane and had power still.

                 

                The problem with one carrier is making at least 35% profit margins, and the other making what a lot of "experts" gather around 12% there's a difference in what resources can be obtained.  AT&T and Verizon making the most money per carrier will have an easier time deploying COWS or even back up generators.  Sprint and T-Mobile has a few but not in the fleet size that Verizon does.

                 

                Hawaii for example.  These are the last numbers I remember for COWS on the island.  Verizon 450, AT&T 220, Sprint 56, T-Mobile 84.  Now you ask why the disparity that large.  Verizon has a major contract with the DoD as well as AT&T.  Feds paid for most of those cows and left a lot of pocket money on top of the fact the top two carriers make hand over fist from their customers.

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            • tmo_lauren

              Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

              The two responses above give a lot of insight into the situation, and just how wireless operates in general.

               

              Exact details haven't been release as to what exactly impacted each area, and I am not sure that they will be, but the general concepts above encompass most situations. Experiences did vary, T-Mobile fared well through most of the Texas storms in areas where AT&T and others did not, some of it just comes down to the local situation. Our engineering team has released statements advising a lot was learned from these storms and every effort is being put into preparing for any future storms.

               

              I hope all is well on your side and you and yours are safe and recovering from the storms!

               

              -Lauren

                • royal76

                  Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                  Does T-Mobile think it owes its customers an explanation of the impact to areas and the improvements it plan to make to prevent or limit such impacts? How the network faired in Texas is irrelevant to the customers in Miami, FL and vice versa.

                    • drnewcomb2

                      Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                      I doubt that customers will ever see a whitepaper or engineering report. More likely will be a general statement regarding microwave backhaul and backup power.

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                      • dragon1562

                        Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                        At the end of the day no matter how much preparation is made things can go wrong. In the future I am sure all the carriers will be even more prepared for such a storm and if we are really lucky the government will put certain policies in place that force carriers to have say a back up gene on each site and so on. Hopefully the government will even provide money to fix any damaged sites so that T-mobile and the other carriers can use that money towards other improvements.

                          • drnewcomb2

                            I certainly hope they don't. First off, it's not appropriate to put a backup generator at each site. Some sites are on buildings, like church steeples. I'm also completely opposed the government giving my tax dollars to private industry to fix what they did wrong in the first place.

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                              • dragon1562

                                Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                                Technically the carriers did nothing wrong. They are just doing what they can to reduce cost and have no incentive to change these practices or in the case of T-mobile they do not have the resources. The gov should ether provide money to repair damages or provide incentive so that the carriers would adopt better practices. They have done this before to encourage providers to cover rural areas. So i don't see how this would be much different.

                                  • stevetjr

                                    Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                                    While I agree TMO doesn't have the resources that Blue and Red do they do have resources now as the parent DT has been more and more willing to supply capital as the turn around and growth has exploded.  TMO just spent $8 billion in spectrum more than the other 3 combined (well Sprint sent zero LOL).

                                     

                                    TMO went from no LTE to near nationwide LTE in a shorter time frame than any carrier had previously and no one including the experts said it could be done when they first announced their timeline but not only did they meet their aggressive timeline they beat it.  That was also not doing it on the cheap which is why they are able to without having to go change all the radios on the towers are able to turn on Gigabit LTE because they put radios in that were top end and supported future upgrades.

                                      • dragon1562

                                        Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                                        To be fair t-mobile had a much easier time transitioning to LTE since it was a widely accepted standard by 2013. Also most of the physical infrasturce such as backhaul and poles to put antennas on had already been added to the areas they wanted to cover. Turn the clock back to even 2011 and the T-mobile would of ran into issues where they would need to get permits to dig up roads and such to get fiber to a tower so that it could have the bandwidth needed to support LTE speeds.

                                          • stevetjr

                                            Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                                            I know the tower near my house they had to run new fiber out to the tower, when I saw the crews out putting the fiber in I knew my tower was getting updated.  A lot of the ATL market had already been updated but I am in the outer rural burbs.  Sure enough a few days after the fiber was done I saw crews on the tower working on it then about 3 weeks after that it went live on LTE.  Now granted this was TMO owned tower and not one they leased from Crown Castle, American Towers, etc. which your are correct probably had fiber infrastructure already to the site with the exception of the thousands of towers that TMO just before the LTE roll out sold to Crown Castle.

                                             

                                            While LTE was an accepted standard TMO was already looking at the future evolutions of LTE, like LTE-A and other features like CA, 4x4 MIMO and ect and they wanted to make sure they had radios on these towers that were going to be able to push the LTE envelope.  I remember reading an article about and apparently another thing TMO did that was a bit different but to eak out a little more speed is the put the radios on the top of the tower not at the base.

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                                  • stevetjr

                                    Re: Why coverage so poor during and after Irma

                                    I think tmo_laurens comment about Texas are relevant in the sense that AT&T and Verizon had issues similar to what TMO is experiencing in FL and that while you can always learn from events like this and probably find a few ways to fix some vulnerabilities that a lot of it just depends on where it hits and where the carriers equipment, towers, backhaul, data centers and etc are located, so even if you put a ton of redundancy in sometimes it simply just comes down to location.

                                     

                                    There is one feature of cell service in the US that a lot of folks aren't truly aware of and that is 911 is always available even if your carrier's network is down and that is because as long as your phone has signal from any carrier the phone can make a 911 call.  Even a phone without a SIM that has been sitting in a drawer for 3 years, if it can be powered up it can call 911.  While not made a point in this thread, I have seen posts where folks complain that they didn't have signal (for whatever reason) and were upset because if there was an emergency they would be in trouble.  That's why I like keep mentioning it so more and more folks will see it and know it.  There was a story not to long ago that a kid ( 7 or 8 if I remember correctly) called 911 after her mom collapsed and she did it from a phone she found in drawer that had been in there for quite sometime.  The mom which commented in the article pointed out that her child had learned that in school when the fire department came to visit, but the mom also pointed out she didn't know that about cell phones.

                                    1 of 1 people found this helpful