LTE slow speeds (between 30-120 kbps regularly), I live near t-mobile offices O'Hare (Chicago)

I've been very disappointed lately with the speed of my connection, as it is not even  enough to watch 480p youtube videos without buffering for minutes. There's only few times in the morning and night when the connection is reliable (when few people use it), it reaches 8-14 Mbps which is solid, but I almost never have the chance to use my phone during that time.


Traveling around a bit around the city it doesn't get better consistently, so it's not one data tower.


I have an unlimited plan, which should not be getting throttled.


Is there any way to fix this? Anything I can do not not be constantly frustrated when doing anything at all? When the problems are at their worst chat apps can't connect... It's bytes of info sending and receiving a line of text but it proves very difficult.


Phone: Nexus 6p

30 replies

Userlevel 6
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Wow, that's no good. Usually if this is happening at a certain time of day, it could be congestion. After looking up this area on my coverage map, that appears to be what's going on. What we normally do for this is have you file a service complaint with our engineers and they'll investigate this for you. Based on what I'm seeing, our engineers are most likely aware of this and the complaint will come back stating the area is experiencing congestion. These situations are tough because there's not an immediate fix for congestion. Even after the complaint is filed, we may not always have an exact time in which you'll see improvements.

What you can do is make sure your phone has the correct APN settings which will give you the best chance at getting the fastest speeds available. Another step worth doing is clearing out your browser's cache and history. We also suggest taking advantage of Wi-Fi (if available) in areas where there's network congestion.

Chicago is a problem market for T-Mobile. They have only 36x36 MHz of bandwidth. They've had 15x15 of AWS and 15x15 of PCS, both mid-band. They've been running the AWS as LTE and the PCS as GSM & HSPA but there's not enough LTE. They recently spent a lot of money to buy a 6x6 MHz license of 700 MHz low-band, which I think they're starting to deploy. This will be some help but not nearly as much as they need. There are future possibilities that they may acquire some 600 MHz and/or AWS-3 licenses but they are years and a new phone away from being usable. T-Mobile is also re-purposing some of the PCS spectrum to LTE.

Now, within a 5 km radius of O'Hare T-Mobile' has over 30 cell sites, micro-cells, etc. They have been throwing everything they have at the problem but the demand for data is unquenchable. Probably the best thing they could do to solve the problem is to limit "Binge On" to evening hours but the program is just too popular and that would cost them too many customers.

The good news is that your Nexus 6P is a very portable phone that can be carried over to any of the Big-4 carriers. It even has bands 26 and 30 which are high-band and peculiar to  Sprint and AT&T. I'm not a proponent of sticking with a carrier that's not delivering good service. You're in a good position to try them all if you need to. Sprint has a "1/2 off your carrier's rates" promo going on*. If you do port out, wait until the end of your service month because partial months aren't prorated. Otherwise the only think I'd suggest you try is to turn off LTE when data slows down to see if HSPA will deliver better but it probably will be saturated too.

*I offer this suggestion with the qualification that we twice tried to port my wife's Project Fi number to Sprint and we each of us failed their stupid credit verification quiz. Our credit is fine, we just couldn't remember when she paid off the '92 Altima and what model year my Plymouth Champ was (our son reminded me it was an '82). They were asking us about events that happened over 20 years ago. You may have better luck.

Thanks for the response, I do hope more resources are poured into this area. Btw, the apn settings link you gave is for the wrong phone, I do not have the 6 but the 6p, which has giant differences in network capabilities and tech. I don't think it's in t-mo's database.

This is very useful thank you. I've had bad experiences with sprint and Verizon in the past, mostly due to pricing being unreliable or just expensive, but that's an interesting deal.

Wasn't the whole Band 12 thing supposed to be a major upgrade in distance and penetrability? Is that not active in Chicago because of licensing?

Userlevel 7
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It is supposed to. In a perfect world it would. There are so many factors even with low band some areas will still be affected. For example new Yankee stadium when it was built caused some issues for carriers. The state of NY already pre-approved new towers on their opposite side of the stadium to compensate.

Userlevel 6
Badge +14

I hear ya. We know congestion is no fun. Making improvements with existing coverage and expanding the Band 12 (700 MHz) is a big deal for us. Your phone has the capability so it's likely you'll be able to take advantage of this when it's available. I do understand you have the 6P so the link I sent was just a reference to the APN settings for android phones using our network.

Band-12 helps with range, dead spots and in-building service, however there is not enough of it to do much for speed. Converting 5x5 MHz of PCS to LTE would accomplish as much for speed as adding 5x5 MHz of 700 MHz.

Userlevel 7
Badge +13

I'm flying out of O' Hare tomorrow and I have a Nexus 5X and if I remember I'll do a couple of speed checks

and get back to you.

Also I read somewhere that Tmobile recently bought some band 12 in Chicago.

T-Mobile acquires 700MHz spectrum in Chicago to be used for Extended Range LTE - TmoNews

If you're taking the highway or going by Blue Line, check it near Cumberland

Userlevel 7
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I'm coming up from the south.  Parking garage is near 4 points Sheraton and I'll check there. I don't think my wife will like it if I was doing speed checks while driving. Lol

Lol alright

Userlevel 6
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@gramps28‌ wrote:

I don't think my wife will like it if I was doing speed checks while driving. Lol

Yeah, definitely not the best idea. 😊 We don't need you being a "stunt man" and testing speeds while driving. Seriously though, I'm curious about those speed tests. Thanks for doing this.

Userlevel 7
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No problem.  Every time I'm in that area I get decent speeds but it's been a few months since I've been up that way.

Unfortunately the problem is getting worse, now for minutes at a time I will have no data at all, though the indicator will still show a three to five bar LTE connection. Here's a screenshot I had to wait for the connection to come back. YouTube would show a "connection to server lost" message so I knew it happened again.

Userlevel 6
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Bummer. 😥

At this point, you could contact our T-Force through the FB or Twitter links below. They can put in the service complaint I mentioned earlier. As I mentioned before, it may come back with a note from engineers mentioning congestion, but it's still worth it to let them know what's going on. Do you have Wi-Fi you can take advantage of in the meantime?

Alright I'll do that. I do not have WiFi unfortunately, so I've been dependent on data for the past couple weeks. I've used my phone as a hotspot for my desktop PC and was very pleased by the performance at first.

Very strange thing happened. I hopped off the apn and my connection improved drastically. I'm currently using the ims apn. Still getting "lte" up top.

Userlevel 7
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Speeds were all over the board.  I got 53 maps on Manheim by Wally's Park by Lawrence Ave. 35 mbps at Manheim and United Parkway.  Outside O'Hare I got 13 mbps but inside I got over 20 mbps but sitting on the tarmac I'm getting speeds that you are getting.

Userlevel 6
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Really? That's interesting. Did you have to manually enter those settings yourself or did you just switch to an existing APN? Are you getting faster speeds during the time of day when you were originally having trouble?

BTW. Thanks for giving us your speed breakdown @gramps28‌.

The APN was automatically in the options. The speeds were improved slightly, but most importantly it stopped disconnecting.

Also, I talked to one of the tforce people. She did say we're getting congestion but that alone wouldn't have given me so much trouble; because I am a heavy data user, (having used 63 GB including the binge on data) I am prioritized lower than light data users. So when there is congestion, everyone else gets their data before me.

While I understand the reasoning behind that, selfishly I'd rather that didn't happen. So even though I pay for unlimited data, I effectively get throttled anyways. That's the biggest bummer.

I think the throttling issue is appropriately  communicated and clearly stated in the terms of service, so the consumer would only be self-righteous to complain about it!

60GB is A LOT compared to the throttling threshold of 20 to 25 GB total data usage. Coupled with the fact that you are constantly demanding more data in one of the most congested areas of the t-mobile network, what you are experiencing as a service issue is simply unavoidable until further and better technologies are deployed by the network.

It was just bought about 6 weeks ago, but the deal won't go through they say until sometime later this year (Q4 2016). But I think after it's done T-Mobile can (and will??) deploy it right away. So prob early 2017 is my guess.

You can check here to see the progress and/or confirm that it's been deployed. When the area with the green circle around Chicago is replaced with pink and a bunch of circled 12s, then that means it's active. I live in Chicago too so I'm VERY anxious to see this happen sooner than later!

brainy.........what is the "ims" apn?? Can you share ALL the settings for that one?? I have the int'l Sony Xperia X Performance, so my phone is unlocked too. So you feel that this one gives you BETTER reception than the fast.t-mobile APN does???

First off, the ims apn only helped me when I was experiencing both congestion and prioritization. In the extreme cases when my internet dropped out changing it stopped the disconnects, and the speed was the same as the fast apn during heavy congestion (30-100 kbps). I did not test the ims during fast times so I can't say it would get me higher speeds.

Here are the settings:

APN: ims

MCC: 330

MCN: 260

APN type: ims

APN protocol: IPv6

Anything not mentioned is left at nothing.

Userlevel 7
Badge +12

Try changing the protocol from ipv6 to ipv4 and ipv6 option.