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Is WiFi Personal Hotspot Location (tower?) dependent?


I've had multiple trouble tickets for the issue that I can't get our brand-new iPhone X's to function as a WiFi Hotspot flawlessly at all locations.  Mine has the unlimited bandwidth and my wife's is throttled at ~500 Kbps.  However, the symptoms are identical.

At home, we had OK 4G LTE (1-3 bars) and can get up to 15 Mbps data up or down.  However, it will NOT allow a remote device to connect to the Personal WiFi Hotspot running on the iPhone X and the error messages vary from 'Incorrect Password' to 'Tethering device may be too far away' (or something like that).  For the extreme rare occasion a connection is made, the bandwidth on the client device is unusable.

Now what always works is USB tethering!  Then we get the full speed we are paying for.  So why should WiFi be different???

When I change locations (and therefore towers), there is a 50% chance of it working in my area (Nashville metro).  If it works, it always works great at that location, if it doesn't, it never works!

Don't know if this is related (shouldn't be), but the only towers near my home are 700MHz (Band 12) only.  Could there be a connection?

Has anyone else seen this phenomenon?  I.e., WiFi HotSpot being location dependent, but USB tethering not?

Needless to say, I'm extremely frustrated as this appears to prohibit my primary motivation which is to use the iPhone hotspot as the primary source for my car to get it's Internet connection rather than paying yet again for another SIM card for the car.

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Best answer by tmo_amanda 26 January 2018, 02:09

Goodness, @rbrakes​! It makes no sense why they would put the location of the issue as Mexico. Yes, clearly we need to get these tickets filed properly. 😥 You've provided a TON of info within this thread that I think would be helpful for our Engineers to see. My suggestion is to reach out to T-Force via Facebook or Twitter and link them to this post. They'll hopefully be able to save you some time by you not having to repeat yourself but a proper ticket needs to be filed which only those with secure account access can do (ex. Customer Care, T-Force, Chat team, etc).

I'm 100% with you that this is location based as that's the only thing that makes sense IMO. It's an incredibly odd and uncommon scenario but I'm sure with all the proper info, our Engineers can figure this out.

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Userlevel 6

Band 12 is NOT for speed but rather for filling in holes in coverage. You really need band 4 primarily. Band 2 is faster than 12 as well.

USB tethering request data differently than wifi hotspot does. When using WIFI you may find yourself depending upon your plan being throttled to 3-g speeds or after you reach your allotment of LTE speed on Hotspot be throttled down to 3-g speed.

You may also try to reset the network settings on the iPhone and see if that helps.

Afraid Band 12 is ALL we can get at home.  That's why the 'free' cell booster didn't help since it doesn't work with that Band.

As for resetting network settings on iPhone, been there done that multiple times.  Apple engineering has looked extensively into it and they say it is definitely a carrier issue.

SIM cards both replaced, and phones replaced as well.  No luck.  Consistent prob.  WiFi Personal Hotspot is 100% location dependent.

Userlevel 6

Are you using the LTE cellspot or are you using the LTE booster that goes in the window? You should be using the LTE cellspot that hooks into your high-speed internet and that provides bands 2 4 and 12.  The booster will only bring inside what signal is outside.

Neither.  The booster is useless since we only get Band 12 at home (tried all windows!).  And a cellspot isn't even worth considering since we have perfectly good WiFi from our Apple Airport Extremes and out ISP (TDS fiber).  The only use case for using the WiFi Hotspot capability at home is in the event of a power failure or ISP (TDS telecom) failure.

I'm was only 'testing' the iPhone Personal Hotspot from home since it was troublesome from using the car as a WiFi client with the T-Mobile iPhone when I discovered it didn't work AT ALL at home.  However, I get perfectly good USB tethered hotspot using iPhone and T-Mobile at home (as much as 5Mbps upload/download on the tethered client).  That is what this question is really about.

I.e., Why is the WiFi Personal Hotspot location (aka tower) dependent???

P.S.  It is only the initial WiFi connection when seems to be tower dependent.  If I can get the car to connect, I can drive for mores and many towers and the WiFi connection remains intact.  Only if I STOP at a location where the WiFi Hotspot doesn't work and turn off the car, I can't regain the connection till I've moved to a tower that does allow it.

So it may be some kind authentication issue.

P.S.  As I said in my original post, I DO have full un-throttled​ WiFi hotspot on my phone and my wife's phone is 3G speed (500 Kbps) only.

When connected via USB, we do see the speed diff at home on the tethered device.  Devices tethered to my phone see the same speeds as theiPhone Hotspot AP.  Devices tethered to her phone are capped as expected at ~500Mbps (although the throttling doesn't start instantly - there is a big burst up front!).

It is just WiFi which is broken.

Userlevel 6

I may not have been clear in my original reply. The booster is obviously not of any use to you because you only have band 12 but the LTE cellspot would broadcast 2 4 and 12. That would give you full LTE at home even though you only have band 12 in your area. The contrast is you would be putting a better Tower in your living room rather than working off of a limited physical Tower nearby.

I guess you are still missing the point.

I don't give a f*ck about the reception at home.  It is only a data point!  I have a perfectly good WiFi signal at home already from my own WiFi AP and ISP.

I want my iPhone to work as a WiFi AP everywhere!  I mean anywhere I can get a T-Mobile Cellular data connection.  I pay for at least 500 Kbps Wifi with my plan and am currently signed up for the full unthrottled network.

Please explain why the WiFi authentication only works on certain towers!   This is a really f*ckec up situation and you aren't helping.  Forget about the cellular in my house except for the fact it doesn't work their either. 

Jeez.   It is my car on the road I really care about. 

For what it's worth, never had a prob with AT&T hotspot.

Also, I could just jailbreak my phone like I did many years ago (before you carriers started this WiFi hotspot scam) and just run natd and make it a REAL router!!!

So frustrated.

Userlevel 6

Unless your phone is still on iOS 10, which it isn't because it is an iPhone x that came with iOS 11, you won't be jailbreaking anytime soon if ever. Anyway best of luck hope you get it figured out.

Userlevel 5

Hey, @rbrakes​!

First off, welcome to our Support Community! Wow, you've provided a lot of detail about what's going on with your hotspot. From all the info you've given us, it certainly does sound location related. I'd like to take a look at the trouble tickets that have been filed on your behalf to see what Engineering has said along with the data that was filled out in the ticket. Do you happen to know your ticket numbers?

Userlevel 6

Hi hi! Just wanted to check in here and see if you'd like us to take a look at the tickets that have been filed, as Amanda offered. Do you mind sharing some ticket numbers with us? Hopefully they're still in your SMS history. 😊 Please let us know!

Yes.

Here they are. Sorry I didn’t get back earlier but came down with the flu.

18124263

18128006

18463357

Userlevel 5

Oh no! I'm still recovering from being sick as well. I hope you're doing much better.

Thank you for the ticket numbers 😊

18124263 - A new ticket needed to be submitted because this one wasn't filled out correctly

18128006 - This ticket states that the tower it (the ticket) was filed under doesn't have UMTS and that the issue may be with the hotspot plan.

18463357 - That ticket stated that you were having issues while in Mexico, is that correct?

Jeez.  Sounds like difficulties in getting these tickets properly created.

Re: Mexico, that is way off.  I haven't been out of the country since I've had this T-Mobile account and these new iPhone X's.

The closest I've been to Mexico is Key West in December!

Now I have traveled up and down the East Coast a bit both by car and plane and seen this problem in multiple cities.  Here is a classic example:

While staying at the Staybridge Suites in Atlanta, the WiFi HotSpot worked so well it was far superior to the 'enhanced' access the hotel provided.  But the next morning at my eye doctor (Ross EyeCare) which was only one mile away on Sydney Marcus Blvd, the WiFi wouldn't work at all.  Thankfully, I remembered USB tethering which worked just fine and gave me fast access.

And as for confusion with the hotspot plan, y'all have verified on every call that I do have full access and I verify that myself with the speed tests!  The problem is simply getting original authentication and access which is still location dependent.

Userlevel 5

Goodness, @rbrakes​! It makes no sense why they would put the location of the issue as Mexico. Yes, clearly we need to get these tickets filed properly. 😥 You've provided a TON of info within this thread that I think would be helpful for our Engineers to see. My suggestion is to reach out to T-Force via Facebook or Twitter and link them to this post. They'll hopefully be able to save you some time by you not having to repeat yourself but a proper ticket needs to be filed which only those with secure account access can do (ex. Customer Care, T-Force, Chat team, etc).

I'm 100% with you that this is location based as that's the only thing that makes sense IMO. It's an incredibly odd and uncommon scenario but I'm sure with all the proper info, our Engineers can figure this out.

Thanks.  Sent Tweet to @TMobileHelp.  Is that the right addy for T-Force?

Userlevel 5

Perfect! That's it! Were they able to help out and get the ticket filed properly?

No, nothing yet.  No tweets back.  :-(

Userlevel 5

Woah! That's not normal. They usually get back to you within 10-15 minutes. Just to confirm, you sent a tweet to T-Mobile Help (@TMobileHelp) | Twitter , right?

Thought I sent it correctly, but no reply at all.

Was the above correct?  Guess I can try again?

Userlevel 6

Hey there! I know it's been a few days -- I just wanted to check in and see if you'd ever heard back from our T-Force team!

Sad to say absolutely nothing, nada, zippo.  Tweeted several times including Direct Message and no responses.  :-(

No Joy.

Userlevel 5

Hey there! I'm going to send a private message your way so we can get this straightened out. You can check your inbox here.

OK, Spent the last week working with the T-Force team and I gotta say that can be hit or miss.  By the time one person finishes reading this thread and then reading the super long Twitter feed, they go off duty and I start with someone new!

Now the very last guy (John Ward) actually took the time to research all the locations I've provided where failures occur and he now  concurs with me that the only thing is common is that the only signal at those locations is on Band 12 !!

That is what I've suspected since early Dec and reported over the phone many times but NONE of the agents included that tiny tidbit in the Trouble Tickets!!  Grrr.

Well, I've now provided some actual Tower data from home home location using my iPhone in Field Test Mode (which I knew how to do - never instructed to do that by a T-Mobile agent :-().

I'm going to run one more test at a different failed location tomorrow as well as a known Band 2 or 4 location where we presume it will work.  I'll provide them with the Field Test screen shots then and maybe we can get a proper T-Mobile Trouble ticket into engineering!!!!

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