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T-Mobile Sucks in USA rant

Seen a few articles on One Mile at a Time about Lucky switching to T-Mobile this summer and how he likes it for his travels and even coverage in the USA. While I loved T-Mobile for my summer travel around Europe, most of my time is spent living in the USA and I have a contrarian view to the quality of T-Mobile service in California.

I think T-Mobile sucks in California where I live and travel.

What stands out to me about T-Mobile?

  • Prior to switching, people warned me that T-Mobile’s service wasn’t as good in the US. I’ve noticed zero difference in my service in the US compared to when I had AT&T (which isn’t to say that will be the case for you, but it has been the case for me).

One Mile at a Time – Should You Switch To T-Mobile? (August 26, 2016).

While I love the lower T-Mobile bills (about $110 compared to $175 for Verizon), I find my phone useless a good deal of the time in California with absolutely no access to email and websites much of the time and even difficulty making phone calls from many places in Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties where I spend a good deal of my time. At my wife’s work, I have to stand out on a little rise outside about 10 feet in elevation to make phone calls or send texts.

I think last night might have been the final straw to send me back to the much more expensive Verizon service we abandoned at the beginning of summer. After arriving to LAX from London, I could not get any web access on my phone, text messages were not going out and even iPhone maps failed, giving me the message it was unable to locate LAX. All I saw on my phone screen maps was an empty gridlines pattern. I could make phone calls and that was it, until I got to the motel I am staying and was able to connect to their WiFi.

My new cell phone approach is get service that works in California in the places I live and where I travel. And I’ll pay for T-Mobile service or some other local service only when I travel international.

Next trip is New Zealand in six weeks. I’d appreciate some advice about good options for texting and data roaming plans in New Zealand.


  • Jon September 22, 2016

    You may need a band 12 phone

  • A September 22, 2016

    That has not been my experience with T-Mobile at all. I’ve generally never had problems in most urban areas. In the rural parts of VA or CA (i.e., Shenandoah Valley or Tahoe) its a very different story (no service at all or E). T-Mobile’s coverage in the DC/NE area is superior to Verizon at least in the urban areas. It sounds like maybe there is an issue with your phone? Not getting any service at LAX or Wi-Fi is highly unusual.

    Weird tidbit – my phone rarely works inside an airplane – at most I have slow 4G. Welcome to T-Mobile 🙂 YMMV

  • Joey September 22, 2016

    I just returned from New Zealand due to error fare on Qantas via AA metal. The best bet is walk into ANY 2 degree store when you arrive in the country and purchase a SIM card with data. With 1gb of data and the SIM Card came out to 25 NZD or you could get 500mb of data and some talk and text for the same price (~18-19USD)

  • enthusiast September 22, 2016

    Check out pageplus for prepaid Verizon-network based plans. Works for most people who use a modest amount of data. $30: 1500 talk, unlimited text, 1GB data.
    $40: unlimited talk/text. 3GB 4G LTE data, then it drops to 2G.

  • Ben September 22, 2016

    What phone are you currently using for it? That could be the issue if it doesn’t have all 3 T-Mobile LTE frequency bands (2, 4, 12)

    PS: The term you want to use when using the internet over the cell network is ‘data’, not ‘WiFi’.

  • Nasakoto Iakata September 22, 2016

    Ric tmobile has been experiencing issues with their service US wide, its not you.
    I also felt it in NYC and so did my sister in Boston. Its not Tmobile but an outtage
    all is normal now

  • Peter September 22, 2016

    WiFi access doesnt have anything to do with t-mobile service. this relies more on the phones hardware and software itself. ofcourse t-mobile can alter some things, depending on the phone and OS on it.

    but in general you can just buy the international version of a phone and put your sim card in. What phone did you used? iphone or android?

    T-Mobile is the biggest carrier in germany (thats where it comes from) and also in other countries in europe you get good to great service with t-mobile and their roaming partners.

    Verizon however sucks if it comes to sharing your data via the phone as wifi hotspot. you need an extra subscription or root/jailbreak it in most cases. Also verizon removes a lot of features the phone already has, just to sell their own version of it. Which I hate. They do it especially on android devices where they have greater access to manipulate things. For example the new note 7 is missing samsung cloud, smart calling and other services just because verizon removed it but not other carriers. I would love to sue them for doing it. I pay full retail price to get less than samsung announced on their press conference what the phone is capable off? screw you verizo!

    well anyway, the Wifi connection to an open hotspot has nothing to do with your cell coverage. you can connect to wifi in airplane mode and also without cell coverage at all.

  • monarchy September 22, 2016

    Tmobile is good for me in CA on iPhone 7plus. In SF data is way faster than ATT or Verizon. Spotty on long drives out out to nowhere, but great inside cities. GoogleFi is great too with faster international data speeds.

  • Jason September 22, 2016

    Would you please specify which phone you were using? As previously mentioned, without a newer phone with new frequencies and bands (band 12 specifically), you will have less coverage

  • Boraxo September 22, 2016

    I tried T-Mo fla few years ago and ported back to AT&T in <1 month. Mrs. b refers to them as a ghetto carrier because coverage is horrible and they cater to LCD. I find AT&T to be great for international and Mexico and great coverage all over California.

    U get what u pay for…

  • DL September 22, 2016

    I have a Note4 on TMo here in NYC, and service in urban areas is fine, but as soon as I leave the city, e.g. many parts of NJ, service goes missing. I was in MRY & Big Sur over the weekend: I had service in MRY but absolutely bugger all south of that along Highway-1

  • DWT September 22, 2016

    Indeed, T-Mobile is great for people who are mostly in urban areas (and I mean city center), not so great once you wander from there.

    LAX, however, has always been particularly problematic for T-Mobile… although I think that airports in general are a challenge for all carriers due to the large expanses of space (where towers can’t be built)?

  • T-Mobile: Fix the LAX Problems! September 22, 2016

    I’ll disagree that T-Mobile is not great in California, but I live in SoCal. I think it’s great.

    BUT, I’ll agree that it’s truly TERRIBLE at LAX. Trying to pick someone up based on texting there is useless; trying to get a ride-share car there is very tough; trying to get email when you land is a little better, but not as good as any other US airport.

    T-Mobile must have been unwilling to pay some LAX fee for locating a high-capacity, strong tower.

    LAX is a black-eye in T-Mobile’s otherwise good LA area coverage.

  • Bob September 22, 2016

    I live the Bay Area and have T Mobile. I get very good reception and my plan is $88 monthly. TMobile changed their plan Jan 2016 and I now can use my device in Europe without a sim card.

  • Joey September 22, 2016

    I live in NYC and never had an issue with T-Mobile. In fact, it has only gotten better since I switched from AT&T two years ago. T-Mobile is still growing so perhaps in a few years or so its coverage in your area will be better.

  • Peter September 22, 2016

    What do you mean by “can’t get Wifi”? Is there public wifi where you live that you somehow can’t access with T-Mobile? Doesn’t make sense.

  • Nikhil September 22, 2016

    I generally use the 3 sim card from the UK. It’s prepaid, and it’s £0.50 per day for 120mb, which is good enough for me. It allows roaming in a bunch of countries, including the US, Aus, NZ, and all over Europe. The tradeoff is, the internet speeds are pretty spotty. 3 is known to throttle speeds for certain apps. Another issue is topping it up, which you can either do through a UK credit/debit card, top-up voucher bought in-store, or resellers on eBay.

  • S Nack September 22, 2016

    What phone are you using? You want a phone that supports T-Mobile’s latest band 12. Also why were you looking for WiFi Access after you arrived at LAX? You wanna wait for the “4G LTE” icon, not the WiFi icon, it could be possible that you were still connected to some dead WiFi network that prevented you from getting any cellular data?

    Been using Tmo for a while, been to upstate New York, Ocean City MD, and SF, never had any major issue. In upstate New York you won’t have consistent reception no matter what carrier you go with, that’s when you download offline Google map for navigation.

  • alexander September 22, 2016

    You may be entitled to damages for your tmobile user agreement as well as a way to not pay the etf. Let me know if I can help.

  • Vicente September 22, 2016

    Instead of having 2 phones/SIMs, suggest a mobile hotspot for international. Like the SkyRoam or similar device. When my wife was in Italy for a month, there was an outfit that delivered the device to her and rented it for 1 month worked great. I forget the company tho.

    If WiFi was available for other people, but not working for you, that sounds like a device issue not a T-Mobile issue. Being able to do WiFi calling has obviated a lot of my coverage issues.

  • Jana September 22, 2016

    Agree with you. My husband has T-Mobile and in our house he has to go outside to get a signal. Inside our house in the Bay Area of California – nothing. He uses my phone (different carrier) in our home.J

  • Joseph May September 22, 2016

    No problem in any of the places I’ve travelled with the exception of parts of Vermont. NYC area great. North East corridor- great. I’ve used my phone in South Africa, Hong Kong, Istanbul and both Western and Eastern Europe with no problems at all. Phones have been Samsung Galaxy S3,5,6,7.

    Verify with t-mobile your setting on roaming and wifi calling. I’m a happy customer.

  • Jay Cee September 22, 2016

    Try looking around howard Forums dot com,
    They have a pretty active posting presence, of course some posts are not accurate, but it’s another place to look for Cellular specific info.

  • Jason A. September 22, 2016

    Hey there… you are really confuso your readers.

    A WiFi connection is a technology that is a local, wireless connection that connects to a local wireless router (LAN – local area network), such as in someone’s house, a coffee shop, or an airport).

    A cellular or data connection is the one you are talking about in most of your article. This is a connection that uses ground-based cell towers through your cell phone provider to make connections or to access the Internet.

    Can you update your article for novice readers? I love your blog, but this article is a hot mess and simply does not make any sense.

  • Ric Garrido September 22, 2016

    I am a novice tech user.

    I turned on my phone when I landed in LAX yesterday and expected things to work like they did before I left California two weeks ago. I had no problem when I came back to California after my July trip around Europe.

    In short, after 20 minutes on the phone with T-mobile tech support in the past half-hour, they did something and everything works again.

    All I know is my iPhone would not do anything like text, get my emails, allow me to use apps or get on the web at LAX. I was able to get on the web at 3am when I connected my iPhone through the WiFi at the hotel. (I could not find a WiFi service at LAX that worked on my phone).

    After 24 hours without sleep and wanting to get a car service, I was frustrated with my phone and my wife was pissed off when our phone call cut out. She figured I had simply hanged up on her as she complained about a car problem and sent me a nasty text and I could not reply. I could not text her to let her know I was having phone problems.

    While my T-Mobile service works again like it did before I went to Europe, still does not address my issues of not being able to connect to the web when I am walking around Monterey locally or make phone calls around my wife’s work location.

    I have an iPhone 5 that is 3 years old. Plan to get a new phone when I see a good deal.

  • Denise September 22, 2016

    We used 2 Degrees in New Zealand. We got a data sim card for a Mifi (Mobile hot spot) at a store right in downtown Auckland. It worked great and seemed very reasonable. In the states, we’ve had AT&T forever. Coverage is quite good most places even in the boonies in the west. Internationally, if you have an iPhone6 or newer, if you are connected to wifi, you can call back to the states for free. And we just text when we’re on wifi.

  • Mallard September 22, 2016

    I have t-mobile and it has been great for me in SoCal and internationally.
    Turn on data roaming. I had pretty good service in AUK and halfway to Wellington.
    I’m in Cambodia now and it’s been working pretty well even out at the Angkor park.

  • brad September 23, 2016

    To get the best coverage from T-Mobile in the US you need a phone that supports LTE bands 2,4, and 12. Band 12 LTE is used exclusively in some areas, and requires a VoLTE capable phone to provide voice service. For the iPhone this means that you need an iPhone 6s or newer (or the budget iPhone SE)

  • Reeder September 23, 2016

    IPhone SE US version lacks a very common band for Europe LTE.
    Signal strength, call quality can vary over a few blocks and building type.
    Go with what works for you. $110 for partially working is a lot more wasteful than fully working for $175.
    Coverage does get better with expansion and worse with over provisioning & no additional capacity so it is good to explore the waters sometimes.

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