T-Mobile 2.0: Now with Coverage!

To the unfortunate souls that have been following this site from the very beginning, hold onto your asses because this is going to shock your bottom clean off you: I’m currently happy with T-Mobile‘s service! To those of you that are new to site, let me explain why this is such a shock. I’ve been with T-Mobile for over two years now, when it was still known as VoiceStream, here in the northeast of the US – I had been using them up here when they were OmniPoint, but I didn’t own that account, so I can’t take credit for it. Anyway, I started this run with T-Mobile with a Nokia 8290. Coverage in those days was very spotty, particularly if you left the routes that the Interstate follow – most carriers seem to use the Interstates and use them as tower deployment routes, back filling coverage into the countryside as money allows. This is where the adventure begins.

For the first 12 months of service with T-Mobile, coverage was mediocre at best – I didn’t use my phone very much, so I didn’t care all that much. After all, the most important feature to a cell phone is VoiceMail, particularly when work comes calling. As my one year contract finished, I decided to stay with T-Mobile – they offered the cool SIM swapping technology of GSM, which no one else had at the time, and even at their current “ok” signal strength they were much, much better than Sprint. I’m personally convinced that Sprint uses their RF signal indicators as a screen saver, because I would have full coverage and all of my signal bars lit up and I would still get disconnected from a call – they truly sucked.

Some time during the first quarter of my second year, T-Mobile turned on a new tower – or something – because my 8290 suddenly glowed with RF signal. If you listened to is closely, you could hear it purring, it was so happy and drunk with coverage. For eight months this lasted, until one day, the signal dropped off to a level below where it was during my first year. This was both at my home and at my office – they are 32 miles apart, so it was a bigger problem than they let on. When I called T-Mobile, they blamed my phone, my not “power-cycling” it enough, my house, my wireless network, sun spots, and solar flares. They refused to admit that there was a problem with any of the towers in Connecticut. And so I waited. The truth is that T-Mobile in Germany wants to be rid of the US branch of T-Mobile, since it’s never made money. Consequently, they seem to go through six to eight month cycles where they try to look really good for potential buyers (Cingular or AT&T) or they cut back their equipment and signal to save money, screwing their customers. This is all speculation of course, but it makes sense, given the rumors around the industry.

About two weeks ago, AT&T turned on their wireless signal by my office. Just like every other AT&T GSM signal that I’ve seen in CT – by my house and up north in Hartford – if you stuck your thumb in the air, you’d get two bars on it. AT&T just simply has great coverage, either because they have no one on the networks or because they have better equipment, I don’t know, but it’s a great thing. Well, almost a great thing. In my office at work, since the T-Mobile coverage was so absent, my Samsung S105 would lose the T-Mobile signal and start to “roam”. When it found the AT&T signal, it would try to register on their network and fail – the moral of the story is that I was left without coverage for hours at a time, because the phone would get stuck in this “I’m unwanted by AT&T” state.

I called T-Mobile to complain because this time I had them by the short and curlies. After all, the S105 is a phone that they recommend and actively promote as their top of the line – the fact that it can’t be set to “manual” and told to only use T-Mobile towers is a design flaw, but it’s still a flaw. I’m also a decent plan with T-Mobile, so they should think of me as an above average phone user, spending about $60-80 a month on service. I even told them that I “power-cycle” often now; this is the same thing I tell computer tech support now: I rebooted already. I was also told that T-Mobile doesn’t guarantee coverage in buildings – this made me laugh because Verizon actively states that their coverage is so good that you don’t have to go outside to talk on your cell phone anymore, and here comes T-Mobile: “We can’t promise you that you can talk indoors.” Rather than fight about the merits of such a policy, I told him that “If it’s the building why does AT&T’s signal come through OK? You guys both use the 1900 band of GSM, so it can’t be the building.” This was met with “Oh. Yeah.” I had a bulletproof case this time out. The CSR, after I crushed all of his “We don’t have a problem” protests, finally took a look in his maintenance system and told me that there had been a number of complaints in my area and that they were aware of the problem – they were sending out engineers to address, but had no ETA on a completion date.

Yesterday, I noticed that I had a full six out of six bars of RF coverage in my office, ending almost nine months of troubleshooting T-Mobile in Stamford, CT. At least until T-Mobile decides to save cash again and cut the signal strength… I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts!

I almost spiked the phone into the ground with glee.


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