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


    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 . 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

                  • jdougherty77

                    I know this is old, but just an FYI. Some carrier firmware blocks certain LTE frequencies.  I have note 8 and s8. My company phone is Verizon and personal is tmobile. I was playing around switching sims and neither worked well at all. But after flashing unlocked firmware or the other carrier firmware it worked 100% perfect.

                    Most modern phones (at least Samsung) have the exact same hardware no matter what carrier model you buy. Just the firmware is different.


                      Well please don't talk to me like I should have known.  I was with AT&T for over 20 years and decided it would benefit me to switch.  I did quite a bit of online research and then I took my phone in with me to the T-Mobile store.  I asked them about compatibility and they checked it for me, assuring me it was fine and transferred all my stuff for me.  I loved the experience, but now I'm experiencing pretty bad lag issues with texting.  I came to this page to see if I could get helpful information.  Here I learn about the BYOD app, which tells me my phone NOT a good device for the T-mobile network .  I did not read every available piece of documentation online prior to switching because I trusted the representatives.  They knew I had a good Samsung phone and wasn't ready to upgrade yet.  I was not given any hint there could be an issue, no documents were given to me when I switched, there wasn't any discussion about the possibility of problems...else I wouldn't have come here seeking answers. 

                        • dragon1562

                          Not saying you should have known. Just saying the carriers do a pretty good job of presenting the information, in a variety of fashions. Its not something that any of them try to hide and I assumed that all reps would be trained to let people know. The people up at my store are actually overly aggressive about telling me certain unlocked phones would not work in the past so the opposite of your case. Anywho I apologize if I got perceived the wrong way in the previous comment.


                              Gotcha...and I do appreciate your help!!  I was just really concerned when I got the "incompatible" result from the BYOD app.  The texting problem was my real issue and what I was looking for help with.  (It became very noticeable and a big problem for me when I was voice texting for a street address and food order for a friend I was going to visit .)  I only downloaded that BYOD app because I saw it was suggested here, so maybe I was putting too much faith in it; it freaked me out with that big "Oops" message.  My phone DOES work fine other than the text lag, and there is also low service reading when it should be really good.  I did check the network settings to see if anything needed to be changed there, and there were *s in both the user and password fields, which should have been blank, so I cleared them.  We'll see how it goes.  I may have to invest in a new phone if I want to get the full benefits from the T-mobile network...if I continue to have lag, my next thing will be to test my signal strength and speed. One thing at a time, though.  LOL  Thank you for the feedback!

                          • magenta4971866

                            I joined TMobile 10 days ago and I thought I did my research, more than anyone at the store had.


                            I traveled nearly 2000 miles last week, I know more about their coverage than most people giving advice on the forums.  For us, the issue is the 700 mhz network.  


                            I have a ATT note 8, and it simply will not pick up TMobile 700 mhz network, and that is huge.   What I can't figure out is, will flashing to see different firmware help.


                            When you unlock a Note 8 on ATT, with the TMobile sim inserted, the TMo software appears to load up.   There is some debate on whether or not flashing TMobile firmware helps (which I have done ), and then also if flashing unbranded firmware will help (which I haven't done ).   Can anyone comment on this ?

                              • drnewcomb2

                                magenta4971866 wrote:

                                When you unlock a Note 8 on ATT, with the TMobile sim inserted, the TMo software appears to load up. There is some debate on whether or not flashing TMobile firmware helps (which I have done ), and then also if flashing unbranded firmware will help (which I haven't done ). Can anyone comment on this ?


                                There appear to be multiple versions of the Note 8, Is this the SGH-I467?

                                  • magenta4971866

                                    For my note 8, it is an AT&T variant, and the model number is SM-N950U

                                      • drnewcomb2

                                        The N950U should have LTE band-12 (700 MHz) Even recently minted AT&T phones should all have band 12, if they have band 17. How do you know the phone's not receiving band-12? Where are you located? Does the Samsung band selection menu "*#2263#" work on that phone?

                                          • magenta4971866

                                            So here's the deal, I do get band twelve.   But where I should be picking up a signal, I get ATT, I don't know how to say it any different.   I have driven 2000 "unique" miles this week, so inkindI know my stuff.   I can dial *#2263* and I do see that all bands are selected.   It could be a network issue, I had no service through MOST of southern Arkansas today (all areas showed a solid map of TMobile service, mostly 700 mhz), but 100% coverage all through Mississippi and Alabama.


                                            I don't have a TMobile phone currently to compare, I just know that when I call Tmovilw, they say "sorry we can't guarantee any level of service from a phone that is not Tmobile.  My wife's Sprint Variant iPhone 7 mirrored my exact experience today, and when you use the BYOD app it indicates that that phone likely would have full coverage/use of the Network.


                                            I'm stunped.

                                              • drnewcomb2

                                                OK. I'm glad to hear you had good service in Mississippi because there are only two counties in this state where T-Mobile has a 700 MHz license. So unless you are in Pearl RIver or Wilkinson Counties, no chance of seeing a T-Mobile 700 MHz signal. A notch is also cut out of eastern Arkansas, about 50 miles west and southwest of Memphis where T-Mobile does not have 700 MHz. You must not have gotten onto really back roads in Alabama because there are some large dead areas, particularly in the southeast part of the state.


                                                The next thing is that you can't rely on T-Mobile's coverage maps. When you are zoomed out, it looks all solid magenta. When you zoom in far enough, there are levels of service: Excellent, Good, Fair and blank. You can pretty well count on service in the first two and the last one means "forget it". The Fair coverage is where things get complicated. Only about 50% of the "Fair" service area is actually usable. The other half you have to climb a tree to get a signal.


                                                I say, if you were looking at Sensorly and not getting service where they said you should, I'd be concerned. If you're looking at T-Mobile's map and it says "Fair", ya' pays ya' money and ya' takes ya' chances.

                                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                  • magenta4971866

                                                    Update- I had no issues during my stay on the Gulf Shores except for the building I stayed in.  Also had coverage all the way back, all the places in my own state (Arkansas) that I did not have coverage before (though should have).  I don't understand it; I've done nothing to the phone.  


                                                    Are there times when the whole state is down for maintenance, lol?  I got beautiful coverage with bands 2,3,4 and when back in AR- 12.

                                                      • drnewcomb2

                                                        T-Mobile has had some issues with coverage at beach resort communities. They simply didn't seem to understand the importance of putting sites right on the beachfront. They'd stick their towers back a mile inland then the concrete and metal high-rise hotels would block reception in and in on the beach in front of those buildings. I've seen some movement toward putting antennas on the roofs of tall buildings near the beach. This way the beach is better covered and the rooms in the hotels get service through the windows that face to look up and down the beach. 


                                                        It often pays to connect to the hotel WiFi as this frequently permits the use of WiFi Calling. OTOH, I've found that some hotel WiFi blocks the TC/IP ports T-Mobile uses for WiFi calls.

                                                • syaoran

                                                  Head over to XDA's Note 8 section.  All N950U/U1/W are the exact same hardware.  You can flash to U1 and then to the TMB U to get your device on the latest T-Mobile firmware, complete with future OTA's.


                                                  When it comes to the service, there are a lot of variables that can impact service.  Having service good enough on band 2 in Pierpoint, West Virginia that was good enough to tether to my desktop to play a few hours of Star Trek Online smoothly impressed my girlfriend enough to drop AT&T for T-Mobile.  With her S9 Plus and her AT&T SIM, she had no service in her Hampton, VA apartment but has good enough service on T-Mobile using an old Samsung Galaxy Nexus to tether her desktop until Cox finally gets around to installing her internet.


                                                  Every carrier has a different standard to display the actual signal strength.  Without an actual standard, bars and actual signal will vary from carrier to carrier.


                                                  Personally, I have had nothing short of superb customer service with T-Mobile the two times I have been with them.  I left the first time when the Sidekick plan ended and came back a couple of years later because of the fast data and unmatched customer service.

                                            • magenta4971866

                                              The T-Mobile app BYOD should be a required precheck for anyone bringing there phone to Tmobile.   No one would would want to come to TMobile without getting that service.

                                              • bh1948

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

                                                Don't know how good the original post was/is. If you have  a Samsung phone access the engineering settings immediately and turn off band 12! don't worry about the bars. Band 4 and 2 are your friends. The leveling of prices leads to exposure of weakness in tech support.

                                                • sherby

                                                  I switched over from Big Red to T-Mobile back in February of 2018.I am an IT guy so am constantly being asked for suggestions on cell service and phones and it found that it is super important to have the correct phone on the T-Mobile current phone is a Motorola G5 plus. It has a 5000 milliamp battery in all of the current bands that T-Mobile uses. It has the 2, 4, 12, 66 and 71 and others. I travel extensively and have had extremely good luck with this phone. It only cost $225.  i think most people try to use their current phone on the T-Mobile system and that is where they run into the most problems. I tried a Motorola Z International Version and it was horrible on the T-Mobile system. Just be aware that it must be compatible with the T-Mobile bands and have Wi-Fi calling available then that may tell you that something is wrong with the compatibility of your phone with the T-Mobile service.  I have switched several clients from their current carrier to T-Mobile and everyone that I have switched has been thoroughly pleased. I am in South Carolina and we have really good coverage in the upper part of the state.  I would never go back to Big Red in a million years since being on T-Mobile for eight months.

                                                    • sherby

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

                                                      Update.  I traveled to the mountains of southwest Virginia recently to a small town that had no T-Mobile service, only big Red.  I was always looking for a WiFi in order to make a call or send a text.  In the rural areas no one matches big Red but I am only in those places once or twice a year.  However, I was at the Masters this year and AT&T and Verizon friends could not send a text because of the overcrowded network.  I had 149 meg download speeds because I was taking  advantage of the new band 71 and apparently had the tower all to myself.  I was using the OnePlus 6T which is a fabulous phone.  It is all about your location and the phone that you are using to take advantage of the bands that are being broadcast.

                                                        • syaoran

                                                          As someone who loves the New River Valley area.  Radford, Roanoke, Christiansburg, and Blacksburg.  I haven't had any complaints.


                                                          You might want to check out a restaurant called, HomePlace.  It is farm to table and everything is great.  Especially rhe cobbler! 


                                                          Blacksburg benefits from band 71 coverage and there are new towers going up around US460, I77, and I81.  The Sprint merger should also help a lot in those areas.  When thatbwill all be done, is anyone's guess.  At least T-Mobile is slowly working on things though. 


                                                          One thing few realize about AT&T in the area is, the entire network goes to crap (more so than normal) when Virginia Tech games are happening.  AT&T uses their cellular network to deliver their feeds to DirecTV customers, brining their ancient network to an unusuable crawl. 

                                                      • bran0518

                                                        So, this article comes from someone who is very mild in network architecture. This article does not even reference what phone they used, BYOD or did they get an actual T-Mobile phone. AT&T and Verizon are notorious for limiting bands and frequencies on their devices to utilize their own network assets. So when you take your phone with their software, it performs horribly. I wish T-Mobile would push this info more.

                                                        People use the trade deals they give you. They give the best and lowest price phones on the market for a reason. They want you to change over and get a phone for cheap or free. Also, they do not limit the phones they sell you like ATT and Verizon do.


                                                        Again this article is lacking major details to justify the lack of coverage and service.

                                                        I can back this up. I had a phone from Verizon and wife got same modem but from T-Mobile. Her phone out performed in coverage to the point of ridiculous. There were areas I wouldnt even receive a call but my phone said I had full signal. The reason, T-Mobile uses a higher and more broad spectrum which was turned off thanks to $h*tty Verizon. I broke down and bought an economy phone from them for cheap for the time, and I get way better coverage now. Thanks Verizon for screwing all your customers and lobbying congress to keep allowing this practice.