Gateway connection problems are related to power

  • 24 January 2023
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 - TLDR version: GATEWAY NEEDS A UPS! -

 Wifi gateway power - UPS, surge protector or power conditioner?  

 (Windows 10 on HP desktops and laptops, Pixel 6, Nokia 5G21 gateway)

 We have had daily problems with out T-Mobile Nokia 5G21 gateway(in Florida). It drops connections and sometimes will not reconnect. 

  We're in the boondocks here and at the tail end of the power grid. I've looked into other ISPs. None of them say they have service here except Hughes or maybe Starlink by now. T-Mobile Home Internet worked pretty well, with LTE until they upgraded their tower to 5G. Now it works incredibly well, when it works!-We've missed several important Zoom meetings because of this problem.

 Sometimes a reboot helps, sometimes not. I have had over twenty calls to tech support in the last two months. They've replaced the unit(but not the wall wart). 

 This issue started in December of 2022. On the first call to TS, I was told that the tower was getting maintenance and upgrade and would be back on December 14. (It would have been nice to have some notice of planned outages. They DO know how to reach me!)  Low and behold, my speed jumped from LTE typical 20 - 40 to 300 plus(585 was the highest yet)! I was ecstatic, until it started dropping connection on a regular basis. It had been running just fine on LTE for over a year in the same spot. 

  I've tried many things unsuccessfully, everything their techs said, and then some.

 I was told that congestion was probably the problem. As I understand "congestion", it is a slowdown when everyone in the area is using it more, as in primetime evenings. This would not cause dropping the connection, and the times I had problems followed no pattern.

 The replacement GW did not come with a SIM card so I put the old one in it.  I was told I needed a new SIM card with the replacement, so I went in to a T-Mobile store and got a new one. That did not help. 

 The tech in the store said my IMEI didn't match what was in the system and he changed it. That did not help.

 I was told that I couldn't use a power strip or extension cord. I have no wall outlets near the best reception area, so I had to plug it in to outlets that were not in the best reception area.  The worst was when it was plugged into the same outlet as the running washing machine. It would drop connection every few minutes!

 Two of the techs were not familiar with this model GW. They told me that the display should always display signal strength bars. It does not unless you touch it.

 I was told to use the "placement" feature in the app to find the best strength in my house. That feature did not work so I used a 3rd party app to confirm that the best location in my house was up against the window in the direction of the tower, where it has been for the last year.

 As a test, I carried the GW to two separate locations over a hundred miles away. It worked flawlessly for several days at each one. This tells me that the problems are location related, either my house, local power grid, or the tower.

I was told that it could not be any closer than ten feet from any other electrical devices(explaining the washing machine issue!).  The severely limits where I can place it so I put it out in the yard sitting on a ladder, powered by a PSW inverter from a LifePo4 battery. I now moved the whole rig back inside the porch.  It has now run overnight with no problems. I hoisted it up to about twelve feet high at the north window and am now getting three bars and consistent 300 plus speed. 

 I now think that it just needs clean power.  We're in the boondocks here. I guess that would involve purchasing another UPS. (I have others in the house, but they are over twenty feet and two walls away from the porch window. 

   Many of the techs promised to give me a callback to check on my issues. About half of them never did. 

 T-Mobile has generously refunded us a month's service fee and $10 for our difficulties.

 I think I know more about these damn things than most of them do.  I think I'll bill them for two months of being their on site consultant and  I think I should apply for a job. I've had two months of On the job training. Of course this would require having a fully functioning web access for remote support.

I hope this helps some of you who have reported similar issues.


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 Update. I installed a Cyberpower UPS. General improvement, but still dropped signals (requiring logging back on to the gateway) and “blinks” (no data coming in, Speedtest won’t work), but data comes back after a few minutes without losing gateway connection. 

 I then rigged up a muffin fan to blow air up from the bottom. I had measured up to 156 degrees with IR thermometer down through the top vent, now under 130, although the case is barely warm to the touch. I can’t imagine what it would be in the summer when my porch is in the 90s! 

 Now I have pretty reliable connection with only occasional blinks. I’m getting consistent 200 - 400 mbps.

 I’m going to try rotating it to see if I can tweak my connection and speed. What is the best metric to measure signal strength, RSSI(currently -72)? 

 If there was any other service here, I would have switched by now. Now to get additional refund for lost service.

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