Sunday, May 25, 2014

Breakup Letter To Tmobile

I have been attempting to use Tmobile here in the metro Atlanta area for the past 7 years.

After countless tickets and waiting for coherent responses other than canned responses back from engineers that I decided enough was enough.  It is extremely necessary for lifeline, personal and work use that I can place and receive calls and have somewhat reliable data.

I had five main issues that were not being handled: 1700 MHz signal attenuation in overcast conditions, missed calls,audio codec issues, no true nationwide 3G nor 4G and excessive battery usage using hspa/LTE.

1700 mhz signal attenuation issues

I reported problems with 1700 MHz signal attenuation when it rained within the first week of the G1 availability back in 2008. I think it rained the night that I got the G1 and I knew something was not quite right with the download speeds.  I knew from early reports that people were getting near 7.2 Mbps downloads from the phone.  My speeds were just barely above edge speeds.  I don't think there was a speedtest app back then but there were a couple of websites that you could download text and image files to test your download and upload speeds.  This continued the next day because it rained all day and a placed a phone call to support about it.  (During my morning commute I did learn that an artifact of the 1996 summer olympics that EDGE was still alive underground on MARTA.)   I think they reprovisioned my phone but speeds were still slow. This was the 3rd 3G phone that I'd owned each on different carriers so I knew what was should have been expected.  The others were on CDMA and UMTS 850 on Sprint and ATT.  Speeds went up when it stopped raining the next day.  Speeds were spotty from November to March when it was overcast raining and March 1st 2009 when there was a snow storm I had my first taste of what data was like during snow and it was inexistant.  I suffered through it for another year and it did not get any better.  I switched phones to a Blackberry Bold 9700 in March of 2010 because the phone had UMA support where I could use wifi for voice calls.  Three months into ownership the problems cropped up again and I purchased a used Mytouch 3G and things were a little better.  By that time I think that Tmobile started to heavily proxy and cache network images, html files and some apks to mask some of these issues.

I eventually gave up on Tmobile and switched to ATT and got an iPhone 4 in July of 2010. The only problems I had with ATT were dropped calls and price.


Missed Calls and Unable To Place Calls

In May of 2010 many of my friends, family, coworkers brought it to my attention that my calls were going straight to voicemail.  The only remnant was a voicemail with people telling me I was rude by sending them directly to voicemail.  I didn't really report this because I was extremely fed up with Tmobile because I was tricked into upgrading my grandfathered unlimited plan to a Nexus One and then was told that I was no longer eligible. I switched back to Tmobile's prepaid offering in October of 2012 when my ATT contract was over and I was then month-to-month.  I ported my main number to use Google Voice a month later and I noticed an interesting finding; a mass amount of missed calls.  Google Voice has a configuration to send you an email when you intentionally or unintentionally miss a call. Some days there were between 3 - 5 missed calls. Problematic? Yes!  I was able to get around this with simultaneously running a Android SIP Client where I could take the call over internet or over the voice network. Most of the time both the phone app and the SIP Client rang at almost the same time.  When the SIP client rang only I knew there was a problem.  I'm a little different that most users and I wouldn't expect most to run configurations like this. I ran this until September of 2013 when I switched back to an unlocked iPhone 5s more details about that in the Excessive Battery Usage. No problems again on ATT. I hated the cost on ATT and again switched back to Tmobile in March of 2014.  This time I got two lines one Nexus 5 and one iphone 5s.  Within days the missed calls started to happen again.  I called support and asked updates with each being closed out.  On March 17, 2014 at 6:53 pm exactly I missed calls on not one but two phones but also facetime audio and factime video calls.  This lasted for about 10 minutes in an open parking lot with me viewing a tmobile owned tower within 300 feet.  I immediately placed a call to support when I could make calls after that 10 minute period I called support and they could not explain why I could not place nor receive calls.  I knew that it was both voice and data related because two of the 4 attempts were all over data.  I asked that the ticket get escalated to their tier 2 engineers and requested a callback. In 52 hours the ticket was closed out without a callback.

On April 19, 2014 between 11:15 am and 11:45 am and April 20th 2014 between 12:30 pm - 12:45 pm I was unable to make phone calls for a 4 - 6 mile stretch on both phones.  I put both phones in airplane mode and power cycled to no available.  On April 20th.  I stopped at a gas station and used the free wifi to make a call over Google Hangouts to  Tmobile customer support.  Around 7 minutes into the call both phones miraculously received a signal and I was on my way.  Again I requested a call back and I found out 4 days later the tickets were closed with a known issue that would not be fixed.  I made a decision then that I was going to switch back to ATT because I simply could not use this carrier anymore with the level of support that I was receiving.  Being able to place and receive calls is paramount to data speeds when it's raining. 

Audio Codec Issues

On February 27, 2014 at 8:30 am, I placed an outgoing call to a conference bridge at work and noticed the playback from the service was at a 75% of it's normal speed.  I thought this was a fluke and had an incoming call and their playback was again 75% of it's normal speed.   I immediately called Tmobile customer support and got a ticket opened.  They were able to hear quality issues on their end with me calling in and called me on the second phone and was unable to reach me.  They opened a ticket and the problem was on their end because a cell was down!  I requested a callback and there was none.  The issue was resolved in 2 hours.  How are you unable to detect cells that are down in your network monitoring systems?  Either you don't care, you're telling me a lie to get me off the phone  or your NOC or reliability departments are asleep behind the wheel.

Over the next month I began to have a problem with google voice was unable to detect the regular old DTMF tones from both phones while a call was in progress.  I haven't seen that problem happen since the early days in VOIP when placing calls to a regular POTS line.  I suspect that Tmobile is playing with audio codecs for HD Voice and I just happened to be the lucky one to find this out that it's not working with IVRs.


No Nationwide 3G/4G
Outside of large metropolitan areas the rest of the country is on Edge of GSM or there is no service at all.  Verizon and ATT has had nationwide 3G for a few years and Verizon has had nationwide LTE since 2013. No need to harp on this.  Supposedly this will be over at the end of 2014 but I won't be there to monitor

Excessive Battery Drain

This dates back to the G1 back in 2008.  With 3G on I could expect to have to charge my phone during lunch to make it to make it home without a dead phone. I was able to deplete my phone's battery in 15 minutes with 3G, Wifi, Bluetooth and GPS enabled.  I could chalk that up to android 2.0.  To get around this and I don't know how I was able to disable automatic cellular registration and register on ATT and I could get battery life in the 30 hour range.  Almost 10 times more than I got on the 1700 mhz band.

I went to Europe in July of 2009 and July of 2010. First trip I was able to pop my tmobile uk sim in the G1 and I was immediately able to access the network there and the apn settings were automatically applied.  I wasn't able to get a whole day of usage without swapping the battery. I would say that I would get about 7 hours of usage.  I believe the Tmobile UK was using the 800 Mhz on GSM and 2100 Mhz on 3G.

A year later I had the tmobile g1, mytouch 3g and bold 9700.  The bold 9700 lasted all day but was locked and I had the Mytouch 3g that was rooted that I used for other carriers.  I got 8 - 9 hours with 3G enabled with browsing and Foursquare and Gowalla checking using GPS.

Jumping ahead to 2012. I got a Galaxy Nexus and used it on ATT from July to October.  My old friend from 2010 with excessive battery usage cropped up again. I bought an extended battery ebay and that solved that issue for a year when I got the Nexus 4.  Problem again.  Internal battery and battery drain issues were still not resolved.  I rooted the Nexus 4 to get LTE and re-enable toggling 2g/3g and airplane mode from tasker. The phone was hot all the time and I would lose nearly 30% battery in about 36% on my commute to work on the train due to constant signal hopping.  I purchased battery backup for the device to give  me a quick top-up when I wasn't near a computer.  This continued until September of 2013 when I got the iPhone 5s.  I used the iphone 5s for about 40 minutes with no wifi and the device was almost depleted on my trip home from UPS. By noon the next day the iphone was nearly depleted at noon and users were reporting on Apple and Tmobile forums that they were having this problem with less than 24 hours of ownership.  I made a decision to try att to see if the problem was network related and it was.  I left home at around 5:30 am the next day and was at 70% at 1 pm with heavy usage. I didn't charge the phone again until around midnight nearly 19 hours later.

I got a nano to micro sim converter for the tmobile sim as well as an att mvno sim from h20 wireless for a signal test.


So I had 3 Sim Cards.  2 ATT and 1 Tmobile.

Using the att sim in my iPhone 5s I was getting some 12 - 15 hours before needed to charge the phone.
Tmobile Sim in the Nexus 4.  6 hours before needing to charge.
H20 Wireless/ATT MVNO Sim.  14 - 16 Hours in the Nexus 4 before needing to charge.  48 Hours in a  Palm Pre 3 without needing to charge.  Previously a Tmobile Sim in the Palm Pre 3 received about 8 Hours without needing to charge.  NOTE:  The Palm Pre 3 was uses the 850, 1900 and 2100 Mhz frequencies and not 1700 Mhz.



In summary not being able to make or receive calls at specific times of the day is potentially deadly.  Not being able to dial 911 because your towers are down is not something that I want to risk.  Tmoble's customer support and network engineers have poor incident management skills.  I've never been treated so poorly by a company before.  I vote with my wallet and I voted to not continue to support a company that is not willing to fix issues with their towers in an area because it's not profitable.   I'll soon file a complaint with the FCC because not being able to place calls in emergency situations is an event that they fine you over.
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