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Why does my T-Mobile coverage go out during power outages? A real problem.

  • 10 December 2018
  • 13 replies
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It was for just few hours yesterday, but a snowstorm caused our power to go out, and immediately, when it did, so did our T-Mobile cell coverage. This has always happened in the past as well. When the power came back on, 4G lte service was immediately restored.  It concerns me, because in a national emergency or a prolonged outage, we would have no way to communicate with family or the outside world.

Friends in the area have told me their coverage does not go away when the power goes off - they maintain coverage.  Please help me understand what is going on and why that is happening. It could be a life-threatening problem at some point.

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Best answer by syaoran 10 December 2018, 20:25

You might want to call in and report that issue to T-Mobile support and make sure you provide the specific area so thet can check the towers.  Cell service going out during a power outage is not normal!

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Userlevel 6
Badge +13

You might want to call in and report that issue to T-Mobile support and make sure you provide the specific area so thet can check the towers.  Cell service going out during a power outage is not normal!

That is what I will do now. Thanks!

Userlevel 6

I'm assuming you don't have a connection to an LTE cellspot correct? and that you're not depending on Wi-Fi calling correct? otherwise it's very coincidental that a towers power would go out at the same time every time as your home's power does. This is considering the fact that all towers have multiple power backups.

Definitely not using WiFi calling or anything related to WiFi.  This is a loss of cell coverage when the power goes out. It is not a coincidence - It has happened repeatedly and the timing is precise.

So I think what must be happing is that there is apparently a problem with my specific tower and the "multiple power backups" are not in place or are not working.

This is a real problem, not an imagined one.  I'm sure both types are encountered here.

This was the reply form a T-Mobile chat session with the "solution" being that it will be "notated on your account."  I am not sure how that helps me or my neighbors. We lose cell coverage when the power goes out, but at least it's notated on my account 😊  

>>>>There are many factors that come into play regarding the towers, and an individual tower may not exclusively be for just T-Mobile. We do work very closely with all cities and counties to provide the best possible set up when towers and the grids are designed. I really appreciate you sharing this with me, and I'll definitely ensure this notated on your account. <<<<

>>>>We're always looking for ways to improve the network and may see changes in the future! Rest assured that I've got you covered and have everything notated!<<<<

AT&T and Verizon have many more cell sites protected by backup generators than does T-Mobile. Also, T-Mobile often uses backhaul supplied by alternate providers, such as cable TV companies. This backhaul tends to not be as robust as Telco provided backhaul. With the advent of FirstNet, if you want the most reliable cellular service, I'd suggest switching to AT&T or one of their MVNOs, like Cricket.

Userlevel 6
Badge +14

Sorry to hear this happened but it's a good call having our internal teams report this to our engineers. We're always working to make improvements especially with x-factors like weather, but reporting this for your area specifically is helpful for us in the future.

I called and reported the same problem.  Thought I’d get an answer along the lines that we’ll check it and wirk on fixing it.  To my disma, they said there was no backup power and that a team comes out when they can to fix.  I told her that they are not fast, and if there is an emergency we are in a bad situation.  The technician said that is just the way it was and you are going to have to deal with it.  I said that is unacceptable and that I would probably look at other providers (whose service does not go out during power outage.  She said you are welcome to do that.  Wow, just wow.

Mike that’s not the response I got when I called...see my reply below

Userlevel 6
Badge +13

Do you have a map that show all of the locations across the US of every cell site for every carrier and each one marked as to whether or not they have some sort of back up power available to them?  If you do, I'm sure we would all like to see it. 

The reality of the situation is that some cell towers are in places to provide coverage but it just isn't possible to have a back up power system connected to them.  Not all cell towers are in big open fields, on the roofs of big large hotels, etc.  Yes, it definitely sucks if you live somewhere that loses your cell service when the power goes out.  That definitely isn't everywhere though, because a friend of mine was without power in Williamsburg, VA for a few days when the last snow storm hit but her phone worked perfectly.  If your area doesn't have back up power supplied to the tower, there is lrobably a reason for it.  If T-Mobile didn't care about being sued over safety, then there wouldn't be number port in restrictions for areas they don't currently have e-911 service.

As far as I know, no such map exists for all carriers. Of course, each carrier knows what they have. I have checked the T-Mobile sites nearest to my house and all three have backup generators. If you can't access a site, one technique is to look on Google Maps and see if there is a propane tank for each rack of antennas.

Since T-Mobile's sites all have to be in real-time communication with the network control center to work, T-Mobile has to know the status of each site in their system. I've contended that they could automatically unblock roaming on AT&T for an area (LAC) when there is a widespread power failure affecting the area. So far, no one has offered a cogent argument as to why not.

It was for just few hours yesterday, but a snowstorm caused our power to go out, and immediately, when it did, so did our T-Mobile cell coverage. This has always happened in the past as well. When the power came back on, 4G lte service was immediately restored.  It concerns me, because in a national emergency or a prolonged outage, we would have no way to communicate with family or the outside world.

 

Friends in the area have told me their coverage does not go away when the power goes off - they maintain coverage.  Please help me understand what is going on and why that is happening. It could be a life-threatening problem at some point.

Not all towers have back up generators so yes it is often a problem here rural anyhow. This is why I’m afraid to snitch to T-Mobile home internet - I have a generator for my router but if it was depended on a tower I’d have a problem til Tmobile can get the power back up to all towers! 

Userlevel 4
Badge +5

Not all towers have back up generators so yes it is often a problem here rural anyhow. This is why I’m afraid to snitch to T-Mobile home internet - I have a generator for my router but if it was depended on a tower I’d have a problem til Tmobile can get the power back up to all towers! 

 

You need to look at the total system. When hurricane Zeta passed this way a few weeks ago, we lost power for about 24 hours. T-Mobile has generators on the three towers nearest to my house, so we never lost service. However, since everyone switched to their cellphones when the lights went out, data became completely saturated (100% ping loss) About 10 hours after the lights went out, I dragged out my generator, hooking up the fridge, and U-verse gateway and found that U-verse data was still working on battery backup. After 8 more hours U-verse went TU. Because the U-verse VRAD is on a different circuit from my house, U-verse stayed down for about 24 hours after our lights were restored, when AT&T was able to find a generator to power the VRAD. My understanding was that the local cable company lost service almost as soon as the lights went out. Due to the fact that the TV cables are not buried, they suffered more damage, which took some time to repair.

The moral of this tale is that if you want to be assured of continued data service in power outages, sign up for StarLink, when it becomes available.

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