My First 60 days with T-Mobile.  What I Learned

golferguy

    After a few decades with AT&T, decided to change to T-Mobile.    Here's what I learned after 60 days.  Note I am a frequent US/Canada traveler with occasional travel to Europe and Israel.

     

    Coverage:  AT&T is a bit better.  That's because AT&T has a lot of spectrum at 850 and 700 Mhz (Band 12 and others).  T-Mobile has alot at 1900 Mhz (Band 2).  Very little at 700 Mhz and just now is starting to build out 600 Mhz.  The 600-850 Frequencies have better range and goes through building walls better.  I've noted that sometime when the phone has 1 bar on it and its on Band 2, when I try to make a call, it switches to Band 12, the bars go from 1 bar to 3 and the call is fine.  After the call, back to Band 2 and 1 bar.

    And some friends and myself needed the T-mobile microcells for our homes.   Opening tickets for coverage is useless, generally.  There is even a T-mobile store 2 miles from my house with no signal in the back of the store.  They claim they told T-mobile but can't get any help.

     

    On I-10 from Jacksonville through to Texas, with T-mobile you will find some brief dead spots of no data.  AT&T is more reliable.

     

    But in the Atlanta airport, for years AT&T has had very, very, very slow data. They told me its my phone problem.  Really?  I had an iphone and Android and it was both phones?  BS.  T-mobile wins hands down here.

     

    Cost:  T-Mobile wins hands down.

     

    International roaming:   No comparison.  With T-mobiles international free roaming for data and text, there is no comparison.    Even free 2G data is good enough for email, web page lookup etc.  And I do have another phone on AT&T, and at times, the T-mobile 2G data was faster than AT&T.  Don't worry about the 20c a min.  Its worth it.  In fact, just use WiFi calling in hotels and restaurants for free.  AT&T's answer to that is $10 for international roaming.  And it really is $12/day with the universal service fund taxes.   My last trip cost me all of $1.04 in roaming due to one 5 minute call on an international network.   Saved a bundle.

     

    But T-mobile is sneaky in one respect.  Showing the the "bars" of signal strength.

    Androids show real signal strength in the ABOUT Screens for Network.   What T-mobile does is show 5 bars with signals as low as -99dbm on T-mobile branded phones.  That's not a great signal.  A -50 dbm is the best ever.    AT&T shows 5 bars at -50 to -80dbm.  T-mobile goes all the way to -99dbm before at -100dbm they show 4 bars.  -110dbm is 3 bars, 2 bars =-121dbm.

    So don't ever compare AT&T or Verizon to T-mobile due to "bars".  There isn't an official standard and T-mobile shows 5 bars where others show 3 or 4.

    And here's where they get really sneaky.  Assume you take an unlocked late model phone, say and iphone 7 from AT&T and put a T-mobile SIM in it.  If it shows 2 bars you get worried.  So the stores tell you the phone isn't right for the T-mobile network and sell you an iphone branded T-mobile.  And voila, you see 4 bars or maybe 5 bars.  My gosh you say, the phone makes a difference.  Nope! It's T-mobile showing more bars with a lot less signal.  Smoke and mirrors.  (In fairness older phones before iphone 6's may not have all the frequencies but new phones have them).

     

    In summary, you can save a bunch of money with T-mobile but coverage due to the higher frequencies is going to lack.  But you will save $.  And if you leave the USA, you can't beat T-mobile.

      All replies

      • drnewcomb2

        I'm going to bookmark this post and refer about 40% of complaints to it.

        • dragon1562

          I agree great post man. Didn't know about the whole bars thing. I just assumed it was up to the OEM to dictate that kind of info.

          • robwi

            Thank you.  I switched 5 lines from AT&T to t-mobile in the Boston area to save money. I am getting -123dBm, confirmed both in my phone and also app "Open Signal".  This is extremely BAD.  How can they stay in business?  Can I get my money back?  My family wants to kill me.  Again this is in Boston, Massachusetts.  I did research on this company before I switched, but found nothing suggesting poor coverage quality.  Very upset with T-Mobile.   (Please don't suggest adding a signal amplifier to my home!  I have a land line for that!)

              • dragon1562

                What phone are you using? Did you bring them over from AT&T? If so there is a very good chance that coverage is there but the device is unable to connect.

                  • robwi

                    I am using a Samsung Note 4 that was purchased thru AT&T.   Is there any way to scrub the phone to get rid of any AT&T software modifications?  (I hope AT&T or other services don't alter the hardware!)  If I had bought the phone directly from Samsung, would it work?   Why didn't the T-Mobile store tell me, and other family members, that our phones wouldn't work?   Why aren't the tech websites not discussing this?   As you can see, I'm not happy!  Thank you for providing me useful information!!   Rob

                      • dragon1562

                        All carieers have a BYOD page that talks about how performance is not guaranteed. T-mobile even has a app so you can check compatibility for unlocked devices. Your phone lacks band 12,66, and 71. It also lacks the ability to do 3 way CA and a few other coverage enhancements that have been made across all carriers over the years.  I will link the site here T-Mobile BYOD Check App . That is  app that can be used to check from the device but honestly it is kind of difficult to put the T-mobile firmware on a AT&T phone and I would not advise unless you know what you are doing as it can brick the device. Your best bet is to get a T-mobile branded phone like the Note 8 or better yet the S9 since it has support for band 71. If you had bought the phone unlocked from Samsung it would potentially have worked better but you would have still run into hardware limitations.

                         

                        Right now as things stand you never be able to use features like wi-fi calling which is huge for filling in coverage without additional equipment and you will not be able to connect to about half the coverage T-mobile has deployed across the network in the form of Band 12 which is there low frequency spectrum that helps with build penetration.

                         

                        As far as why the reps at the store didn't say anything I would assume they just didn't know, since it is not something one can easily keep up on with the amount of phones out there.

                         

                        Hope the info helped and I wish you luck