Short Review: It doesn’t work and I had to go back to my hated cable company. Read on for the long review.
After hearing that AT&T
bribed paid Michael Cohen (Trump’s former attorney and fixer who has since been disbarred) $600K for “insights on how the president works” we decided we would take our mobile business elsewhere.
We happily signed up with T-Mobile and for three years we have loved their flat $70 for two lines with a lifetime rate guarantee. So when I received a flyer in the mail for their new 5G Home Internet service that also came with a lifetime rate guarantee, I was intrigued.
I was tired of having to call up Suddenlink every few months to haggle to get our monthly rate reduced after they hiked their rates again. Especially when they would continually stuff my mailbox with offers to new subscribers at a rate less than half of what we were paying. Loyalty meant nothing to them.
Before signing up with T-Mobile I had questions about what I could expect for speeds because their flyer wasn’t too specific. I was told in our area we could expect 100Mbps which was comparable to Suddenlink and more than we really need. I also asked if it was compatible with our Eero mesh router and I was told it was.
I didn’t cancel Suddenlink right away, wanting to test this new technology before fully committing to it since I make my living off of the Internet. The first week was great as I was getting between 100 and 150Mbps, which was even better than I expected.
Then suddenly it dropped down into the 20s. I called T-Mobile and after being transferred to a few different people I was told that the tower was in the middle of an upgrade, and speeds should be back to normal soon.
Sure enough, a day later I was back cruising in the triple digits again.
It worked so well and reliably for a month, that when my billing cycle was done with Suddenlink, I cancelled their service.
Then a week later I noticed that my internet was running really slow. I mean, let’s watch the page of jpegs slowly load type of slow. A slow I hadn’t seen since the old dialup days. All I needed was the modem to make a bunch of squealing noises every time I logged on to relive those pioneering days of the Internet.
Thinking it was just another tower upgrade, I was patient through the weekend, but on July 12th when it still hadn’t been fixed, I gave T-Mobile a call. I started off mentioning that my T-Mobile cellspot didn’t seem to want to work with the new gateway, and after being forwarded to several different technicians, I finally arrived with one who told me that their cellspot wasn’t compatible with their Home Internet gateways. He suggested I keep my cable service if I needed that for my cell service.
Oh, did I mention that I also just cut our landline, based on the knowledge that our cellspot provided our location for 911 calls?
Forwarded to another tech to try to solve the original problem of the slow speed and they said they would have someone check the tower and get back to me the next day. Which they never did. But that tech also suggested we could upgrade to 5G phones to solve the poor cell signal issue we had running on 4G.
Our iPhone 6s’s were still working fine other than their battery life, but I figured maybe it was time to upgrade if our reception improved. So the T-Mobile rep sold us a pair of iPhone SE’s. I had just gotten an SE for my fire department job and liked that it was identical in size to the 6s. Being a rather new phone I assumed that it was 5G capable, since that was the whole point of the upgrade.
I had to contact them again to get a $30 upgrade fee reversed that they added and didn’t tell me about. I explained the only reason I upgraded is because they broke our phone service.
So imagine my surprise when they arrived and after spending more time getting them activated and our files moved over, that we still had the same one or two bars on 4G LTE. No 5G in sight.
More time on the phone with T-Mobile, only to find out the SE’s don’t have 5G. So then I had to restore everything back to our original phones and reactivate them. The tech I spoke to for that call was such an idiot. He kept thinking I wanted to switch the phone back to an old number, not switch the number back to an old phone.
Finally I had to stop him, and ask him to listen to me very carefully. “I’m going to explain this one more time and I really want you to pay attention to what I’m telling you,” I said. I then explained the whole sordid tale of how I ended up with two new phones that were useless.
We eventually got the old phones reactivated, and that evening I ordered two new batteries for the iPhones. Lori missed the headphone port on the new phone since she uses it for plugging into her cochlear implants. Things that Apple doesn’t consider in their endless pursuit of thinner, portless devices.
By this point we had been suffering speeds averaging less than 10Mbps for about a week. I was regularly checking our speeds with the Speedtest app, and a couple of times we got speeds below 1Mbps. Quite often our download speed was less than the upload speed. I’ve never seen that before.
Another call to T-Mobile and after being bounced around to get to the Home Internet folks again, the guy was kind of baffled, but said he’d have them look at the tower again, and get back to me. Never heard from him again.
I tried their app, I tried calling, and each time I got transferred I had to give them a verification code, even though I was using the device that was on the account, and had previously verified with the person I had just spoke with.
A week after my first call, I was still trying to get someone to tell me what went wrong. I asked if I could take the gateway to an area with a different tower to see whether it was the tower or the gateway. Nope, can’t do that, it’s locked to the tower they assign it to.
I did put it in my car and drove around Ferndale, finding that even when I had 5 bars, it still was only serving up 4G speeds, as it was always comparable to what I could download with my 4g phone. So at that point I was convinced that either the tower wasn’t broadcasting 5G or my gateway wasn’t receiving 5G, but I couldn’t diagnose which.
Back on the app on July 18th, the tech said they’d send me a replacement gateway to help rule out if that was the issue. She promised to send it out that night and I should receive it the next day. She also promised to call me back Monday night at 7pm to see how it worked out.
I was skeptical of having something shipped out Sunday night get to Ferndale on Monday, but one can be optimistic right? Well, there’s a reason I’m such a pessimist. Got home from work on Monday and no sign of a package from Fed-Ex. Also no call from Moanna, the third time a promised check back call didn’t materialize.
I waited until 4pm Tuesday to contact T-Mobile again to find out where the package was. It had just been delivered I was told. Fed-Ex must have picked the exact moment I was in the bathroom to drop it on the porch.
To get the new gateway working, I had to open up the old one and transfer the sim card to the new one. That was easy enough. Plugged it in and waited for it to boot. No internet access at all. I could reach the gateway from my MacBook and iPhone, but the gateway couldn’t reach the Internet.
I figure I must have screwed up inserting the sim card so I open it up again. There’s only one way it fits, so I get ahold of T-Mobile again. At this point I start taking notes because this is getting so ridiculous.
I started the conversation at 4:16. The tech I spoke too was Princess. The T-Mobile techs all have accents, which makes it very hard to understand them, and their knowledge of English can be limited. They’ve obviously been coached to try to sympathize and apologize. After awhile it just gets sickening. I couldn’t catch Princess’s name and I wanted to make sure I had it referenced. “Princess, like a Disney princess,” she said.
Yeah, really. She tells me at one point that 5G in our area is limited, and I’d be better of on 4G, directly contradicting what I had been told earlier. I called her out on it and at that point I said I needed to talk to a supervisor, and preferably one without an accent so I could better understand what they were saying.
My 60 year old ears don’t hear that well, and a long distance cell conversation on one bar is pretty bad, but add an accent on top of that and I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you now. (Yeah, that was Verizon, but you get the point.)
Nine minutes of hold later, I’m just about to hang up when Rose comes on the line. Rose has the same accent as Princess, so I ask her where she is located. The call center is in the Philippines. When are corporations going to wisen up to the fact that cheap labor for call centers actually harms them when customers can’t even communicate with the people who answer the phones?
Another 20 minutes was spent talking to Rose. She confirmed the gateway they just sent is DOA. She promised to send out another gateway and she promises this one will work. Only they don’t have any in stock and they can’t send one until July 30th, another 10 days from now.
So given that I’ll have 10 more days of crappy Internet on top of the 10 days I’ve already put up with, I ask if at the least I can get a credit for this month’s billing. Sure, no problem Rose says. I later get a text saying my account has been credited $50, not the full $60 I pay. Oh, that’s right, on Twitter I found out that people just signing up for it now are getting it for $50/month. Well, at least my rate didn’t go up!
I really wish at this point I had kept a better log of each conversation I have had with T-Mobile, but it’s safe to say I’ve probably wasted at least 8 hours talking to them.
On Twitter, I saw that some people were having better luck resolving their issues with T-Mobile by direct messaging @t-mobilehelp. So I tried that. Got one message from Stephanie Tardiff saying she’d love to help. Still waiting for a reply once I gave her just a taste of my complaint.
In the meantime, I’ve been replying to people on Twitter who are wondering whether to switch, or are still in love with it after switching, and I’m finding I’m not alone in my experience.
It’s great when it works. But that’s such a big qualifier, when it works. Is the gateway really fragile and at fault for everyone’s troubles, or is it like DSL where you get great speeds as long as your neighbors aren’t using it?
At this point I’m not sure, but I am sure that as much as I hated dealing with Suddenlink, and their incessant price increases, at least their service was generally reliable. Can’t say the same for T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet.
7/22/21 – Received the second replacement gateway rather quickly after I contacted @T-Mobilehelp on Twitter. It worked exactly the same as the original one. T-Mobile says their engineers are looking at the problem and I should hear back from them on 7/27. One thing that was disheartening for the future of this product is that the Twitter rep told me that they have 4 tiers for rationing bandwidth on their towers.
“Imagine our network as a 4-lane highway where mobile phones have priority to the fastest speeds first. Then, Essentials users are in the 2nd lane, hotspots in the 3rd lane, and home internet in the 4th lane. If traffic allows for Home Internet to have faster speeds, you will see those 100+Mbps results, but the results may also drop if the other traffic is heavier.”
So with 5G Home Internet, you’re stuck in the slow lane. Right now I seem to be stuck behind some grandma driving her Rambler.
After experiencing super slow speeds all weekend that prevented us from streaming Netflix or Apple TV, today I woke up to find out that once again we had no Internet connection at all. I rebooted the gateway and that didn’t fix it. So I contacted T-Mobile again using the Twitter DM conversation that was still open.
The first tech to get in touch asked me to run a Speedtest, after I had already mentioned that I had no connection at all. That was confidence inspiring.
Kyle lasted for about a half hour until his shift was over, replaced by an overly optimistic Jen. Honestly, she introduced herself as my #MagentaMagician. Their canned attempts at being caring and pleasant are starting to wear thin. Just fix my Internet and I’ll be happy.
They were able to reboot the gateway on their end, and that at least got me a connection back. But even with my laptop plugged directly into the gateway I was only getting .75Mbps download and 1.22 upload.
Total time spent chatting with T-Mobile: 5 hours.
After I left a scathing response to their followup survey, I got a couple of calls from T-Mobile that went straight to voicemail because they didn’t use Caller ID. I got back in touch through Twitter and after being passed up the chain, I finally got a call from DannyBoy. It seems T-Mobile is really into making their techs come up with some cutesy name or tag that’s supposed to make you feel like your interacting with your best friend. At this point it was making me gag.
To his credit, DannyBoy was the most knowledgable tech I spoke with and provided the most transparency to what was really going on. He informed me the local tower was broken, they couldn’t get parts, and the tech that was working on it was sick. He asked that I be patient and he would have a much better answer for me on 8/9/21 or 8/11/21.
He also mentioned he was the trainer for Jen who wasted several hours of my time on the 3rd. To point out how inept their techs are, I relays some of what Jen had me try. She had me make changes to the the WLAN side of the gateway, setting up a 2.4Ghz network claiming that in my area, that would provide a better connection to the tower. For those less technically inclined, I will simply say that’s bullshit. It’s really sad that I know way more about how cell towers and WLANs work than the person who is supposed to be fixing the problem. I ended my 45 minute conversation with DannyBoy relating that whole story and how Jen might need a bit more training.
Came home after work expecting to watch the new episodes of Ted Lasso. Streaming speeds were so slow the video and audio kept getting out of sync, and then finally it quit altogether. We gave up after having to restart the episode the fourth time.
Woke up to find that again, no Internet at all. While I was waiting to hear back from T-Mobile, I thought I’d at least stream my iTunes to my Yamaha stereo. Except that during the debugging I was instructed to move the gateway next to a window and I had to unplug it from everything.
So I put everything back to where it was and plugged the stereo into the ethernet port.
The gateway has a battery whose only purpose is to allow you to move the gateway around to check signal strength. So I had to wait for the gateway to reconnect and make the WLAN available again. When it did, I found that none of my devices could connect, even though both SSIDs were showing.
Then those disappeared, reappeared, and disappeared again. I watched the gateway and it appeared to be rebooting itself.
I tried doing a hard reset and that didn’t work either. I sent another message via Twitter to T-Mobile advising them of the latest problem. Here was their response:
After reading that, I was incredulous and decided I need to go back to our cable company, no matter how distasteful that is.
Not having a WLAN in the house is even worse than just loosing the Internet. I can’t access the files on my iMac from my MacBook, I can’t access the printer, I can’t stream to the Yamaha, etc. I decided to make one last ditch effort to get the gateway to reset back to the factory defaults in the hopes that I could get it running again.
I tried the reset button again several times, but it kept coming back showing my SSIDs even though I couldn’t connect to them. Reading online, I saw others had the same problem and they suggested first removing the battery.
Sounds simple enough but it wasn’t and for those trying this I’ll explain the process.
After I removed the battery, I plugged it back in and did a hard reset. But instead of the default SSID showing up, I saw a network called OpenWrt appear. I tried the default password, but it did not work for that network. So now I was completely locked out of the gateway.
I’ve now spent over 11 hours this week and probably over 20 hours this month troubleshooting the T-Mobile Home Internet Gateway and things have only gotten worse. I just messaged T-Mobile to cancel my service and I explained I will expect a full refund due to wasting so much of my time.
I so wanted this to work, and for the first month, it did, beautifully. That’s what makes it so frustrating. Had it not worked at all from the beginning, I would have cancelled it while my cable was still active. But knowing that it technically can work, but for whatever reason it now doesn’t, is frustrating.
From other accounts I’ve read on the web, I know I’m not alone in having problems with the service. It’s a promising technology, but I’m afraid it’s not ready for prime time yet.