2G only for non-TMobile branded phones that have 4G LTE?

mindmeld

    I have an unlocked Kryocera Dura XE Clamshell feature phone. I purchased the voice/text but no data plan. Before you say it is the phone, this phone has all the T-Mobile Bands, up to 4G LTE, except Band 71. T-Mobile has this phone listed as "compatible" as well. I put in a brand new OEM battery too.

     

    I am experiencing unacceptably poor connection quality, with reception bars that bounce to between zero and three erratically, dropped calls, dialed calls not completing, voicemail breaking up and not even audible until several seconds into the message--the whole nine yards. This makes it unusable as a basic phone and occasional text, which is all I need.

     

    As this brand is an unlocked former ATT phone, the T-Mobile store rep had this explanation:

     

    First he said it was an old phone--No, the Dura XE first came on the Market in January 2016. It is still being sold, and is more than capable of receiving every T-Mobile band except 71. In fact the 4G LTE lights up when connected to the T-Mobile network--but it is being blocked by T-Mobile (because I do not have a data plan). Even if data is turned completely off on the phone (WiFi too), there is no improvement.

     

    Then he said it did not support the Bands T-Mobile uses--Yes, it does, except for Band 71

     

    I asked if I purchased a data plan would this improve? No.

     

    Then he finally said since these were former AT&T phones, T-Mobile limits them to 2G, and even that signal is degraded now since they will be discontinuing it soon. He then of course offered to sell me the Alcatels they have that would not have that restriction, or one of their smartphones. I declined, since I just dumped Virgin Mobile because of the buggy OS on the low quality Alcatel that made it equally unreliable, and for many other reasons. The Alactel also not very durable and badly designed--hence my choice of the Dura XE. I don't want or need a smartphone either for many good reasons.

     

    I was not told of this intentional restriction when I signed up and prepaid. In fact, I was making and receiving acceptable quality calls the first few days, then it degraded to unusable, which it has remained ever since. I also confirmed this has nothing to do with tower locations, what physical or signal interference may or may not exist, or the condition of the battery, the unusable poor quality persists everytime I use it now. It may have something to do with having to resign onto the network every time I power up the phone, not sure. Nothing I do there helps either.

     

    Anyone else have this issue and how did you resolve it? I believe this was unfairly deceptive on T-Mobile's part, since a "compatible" phone means more than just 2G today, and means nothing at all if the connection provided is functionally unusable. There is no real reason T-Mobile cannot at least use 3G for those subscribers who have unlocked clamshell phones listed as "compatible" with the network, even if they don't have a data plan along with it.

      All replies

      • drnewcomb2

        I think the problem may have to do with VoLTE. The carriers seem to have gone out of their ways to select VoLTE standards that are incompatible with each other. According to Phonearena.com, the Dura XE has the following bands:

        GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz

        UMTS: 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz

        LTE (FDD): Bands 2, 4, 5, 12

        Now, assume that VoLTE does not work. This leaves you with either GSM 1900 or UMTS 1900 for voice and text. In some markets, T-Mobile is moving their UMTS service to a single block in the 1700 MHz band (#4). This will leave you compatible only with GSM 1900, which is also being seriously depreciated.

         

        Can you tell me which market you're located in (e.g. Zip Code)?

         

        If this phone is not providing good service, I'd suggest you either replace it or port out to a AT&T or an AT&T MVNO (Like Cricket or Consumer Cellular).

        1 of 1 people found this helpful
        • mindmeld

          drnewcomb2, Thanks for your reply. My home area is zip 98166. This is also an issue when using it in downtown Seattle where I work, indoors or outdoors, where cell coverage is very strong. T-Mobile VoLTE was rolled out in May 2014. By 2016 T-Mobile claimed 50 percent deployment. By late 2018, one can realistically assume it is now 100 percent.

           

          I suspect that I was first on 3G, as the first few days I could make calls from anywhere without these issues. Until the network fully recognized a non-Tmobile device, and restricted me from that point to rollovers to 2G only, instead of 3G. This does not address the issue of why they are not telling people this as a caveat in their listing of compatible phones. I did my research, including every single carrier and MVNO available in my area, and there was no information I could find that mentioned this before with them. The MVNO's plans are priced the same or more as a primary phone replacing a landline, and are not that much less expensive.

           

          This also does not address the issue of why they are not handing off to 3G instead of 2G when a phone supports that. I did not expect VoLTE to work, at least without a data plan too, but I had every reason to expect 3G to work, especially when there are no realistic data demands on it in cases without a data plan.  If they were limiting UMTS to only one block in band 4, effectively a 2G band, that does seem to imply they are not going to support 3G either.

           

          However, the Dura XE also supports LTE 1700/2100 MHz which are also bands used for 3G, just at a reduced bandwidth for data transfers and basically analog voice quality (which is good enough for most people). It should be possible to only provide voice/SMS on that too, otherwise there would be no choices at all for voice/SMS without data.  I know of no plans publicly disclosed to discontinue or degrade 3G, as that is the foundation for 4G LTE too. It may be the case that it comes down to how these are implemented, but that does not excuse not disclosing that caveat when listing other phone's compatibility with the TMobile network--as that compatibility is functionally useless when limited to 2G. This phasing out of 2G has been publically known for at least two years now.

           

          I chose T-Mobile for their initally good customer service and for the fact that they are the only carrier left I could find in my area that has a true low cost, voice/text only prepaid monthly plan. Your suggestions to get a different phone or switch carriers are not appropriate or practical for people like me. There are more of us than you realize. They are not all elderly and technically unsophisticated. They need something more than a Jitterbug or Alacatel, but less than an expensive and fragile smartphone brick to carry around, to say the least.

           

          Clamshell/flip feature phones fill that niche better. TMobile only offers the worst one of several available. There are also those that already have a primary carrier for home use, have a landline or VOIP, but need to also fully own a second separate low cost phone for emergencies, traveling, and general away from home use. T-Mobile gave the impression they fill that gap with the $3 per month plan, and the Dura XE they listed as compatible. That seems not to be the case, hence the deception by ommission here. It's a shame, as this niche actually puts very little demand on their network and does not require any significant expense to keep-- but also does not provide the level of profit in comparison to smartphones.

            • drnewcomb2

              Since T-Mobile has 25x25 MHz of AWS (band 4) and 15x15 MHz of PCS (band 2) in King Co, I'd be willing to bet you a cup of coffee that it's organized as 20x20 LTE, plus a single 5x5 MHz UMTS carrier on band 4; 15x15 LTE on band 2 with a thin GSM layer running in the LTE guard-bands. (This is similar to NYC.) Since your phone is X-AT&T and AT&T never used band 4 for UMTS, the phone is not compatible with that band and standard. Since AT&T and T-Mobile use different versions of VoLTE, you can't use LTE for voice. This means that you fall back to the last level of compatibility: GSM on 1900 MHz. In other places T-Mobile will have UMTS on band 2 and your phone will have greater compatibility. If you were interested in data, your phone would be compatible across many bands. In short, the question "is it compatible" does not have a binary (yes/no) answer. Your phone has a lot of compatibility but is not what I'd call, "fully compatible" with T-Mobile. No amount of discussion will change that fact. 

               

              There is some demand for flip phones but the vast majority of T-Mobile's customers are interested in their AYCE data. Therefore, T-Mobile focuses almost exclusively on smart-phones and other datacentric devices. If you don't use data and make only a few calls, I can recommend PagePlus's PAYG plan. They're a Verizon MVNO and cost as little as ~$32/year to keep a phone active. I keep one as a backup when I travel outside T-Mobile's coverage.

            • mindmeld

              Thanks again for your helpful response. I did not expect to change anything, I needed that undocumented information only hinted at elsewhere that makes the difference. You should not need to be a tech with inside information to know some of this before you select a carrier. If it is indeed organized as you say, their very thin use of 3G in Bands 2 and 4 are no better functionally than 2G. The bottom line is that most people will not know if "compatible" actually means fully functionally compatible (in my case, just using it for a basic phone and texts), until after they have made the switch to another carrier and lose money on it. Either it is nominally useable or it is not. There is no gray area for this when it comes down to such basic service.

               

              Page Plus indicated by my IMEI my phone was not compatible. However, it appears at least in the case of AT&T branded unlocked phones, you are in practice still limited to the AT&T MVNO's if you want reliable service at reasonable prices. I wanted to avoid AT&T, but that is not possible with this phone. I am now going to try H2O, an AT&T MVNO with similar low cost basic plans, and hope for the best. Very disappointed with the undocumented (for the public) network band choices of TMobile.

               

              Thank you very much for your information and patience.