Review by a333
Good "3.5 / 3.75G service in vast majority of NYC and suburbs, high quality network, low pings"
- Location: Rego Park,Queens,NY
- Cost: $57 per month
Bad "Needs more 3G coverage along the I-95 / intercity corridors"
Overall "Very good provider for those looking for 4G-like speeds without the commitments/horrible pricing"
|Pre Sales Information:|
Value for money:
(ratings above consensus)
Walked into a T-mobile store, and initially bought a data-only (mobile broadband) prepaid SIM card. Bought a 300 MB week pass for $15 to see if their network was up to snuff around various parts of NYC. Put the SIM inside my unlocked Nokia 700 (it has pentaband 3G radios, so I can test AT&T and T-mobile's 3G networks on the same device as a reference. First impressions: pings are DEFINITELY a lot lower on T-mobile (all that backhaul investment and radio upgrades to HSPA 42 seem to be making quite the difference). The connection was a LOT zippier and stable than my AT&T 3G service, and speeds varied typically between around 3 and 5 Mbps downstream, and about 1.5 - 1.75 Mbps upstream (tested in Downtown Brooklyn / Metrotech in the revening hours on a weekday.. downstream speeds tend to reach around 7 - 8 Mbps during nights and on weekends due to less loading). On a bus ride that took me from Metrotech, along the BQE, into Queens, I was able to continuously stream a HQ (615 Kbps) Youtube stream with minimal buffering. Latencies during off-peak hours are as low as 30 - 50 ms, increasing to around 80 - 100 ms when in and around Midtown Manhattan (circa 42nd - 59 St.) during peak hours. (Note: These speeds and latencies were on a 14.4 Dl/ 5.76 Up HSPA radio.. I'd imagine the Rocket sticks T-mobile offers would be able to hop on the faster carriers, especially in a deployed area like NYC.)
The only major issue I encountered on the data-only SIM was that the phone sometimes had issues handing off between towers / maintaining the 3G login (the 3,5G icon still showed up, but the data link stayed inactive). Finally, I bit the bullet and bought a voice prepaid SIM, and activated the $30 monthly4G plan T-mobile is offering online (5 GB of uncapped HSPA speeds, unlimited texts, and 100 minutes cellular voice). Pro tip: do NOT let the store activate your new SIM card. Go to the nearest computer with internet access and activate it yourself! That way, the $30 5 GB plan will be presented to you as an option, and you can select it when activating the SIM card online (the plan is ONLY for folks buying a kit from Walmart, or NEW activations done ONLINE on T-mobile... I managed to convince activations reps on the phone to let me have the plan, since I can "activated" my SIM barely 30 minutes ago...). Signed up for voip.ms SIP service, and set it up on the SIP client built into my Nokia, so now I have seamless access to VoIP calls from my phone app (it also stays logged in as a background process, so I can receive incoming calls). I also set up my voip.ms account to forward calls to my T-mobile # in case I am disconnected from 3G, so it's fairly reliable. The new SIM card seems to maintain connection MUCH better (might be some issue specific to my phone, though), and VoIP works quite well over T-mobile's 3.5G system (I'm using G.729a, though I tried G.711 u-law, and it works perfectly well in off-peak network conditions).
Long story short: Coverage seems pretty strong (though in-building and basement penetration might be iffy, since T-mobile only uses AWS bands for 3G, while AT&T has spectrum in the 850 MHz band, though that might be changing thanks to the 3G/4G roaming agreements T-mobile will be getting as a condition of the failed merger deal. Coverage on highway corridors is there, but will frequently drop down to EDGE, since T-mobile intends to remain a major-city carrier when it comes to deploying the latest/greatest network gear (looking forward to that LTE-advanced deployment this summer!).
Just received my Nokia N9 and stopped by my local T-mobile store for a micro-SIM today.... at first, the salesperson attempted to dupe me into paying $20 for the new SIM, but after persistently explaining the fact that the initial ACTIVATION kit itself (SIM included) only had cost ~ $8 - $10 or so, he offered to "reduce" the total to $10, before finally "realizing" that as a customer, I got 1 free replacement SIM card, after which he just fetched the new SIM card and activated my account on it. Moral of the story: know your rights... replacement SIM cards are generally either cheap or free (T-mobile's own web site actually lists a $0.00 price for Micro-SIM's last time I checked), so beware of sales reps trying to make a quick buck.
Now, on to the new assessment of performance: one thing is clear... the phone itself also makes all the difference in performance... the Meego default browser loads pages at blistering speed, and DSLR's iPhone browser speedtest showed that latency directly to the browser was = 80 ms at pretty much all times, with download speeds consistently staying at around 2.5 - 3 mbps even during peak hours, and increasing to around 4.2 mbps during evening hours. Signal strength was around the same as my Nokia 700 under easy conditions, but a trip down to the basement revealed signal levels between 2 and 4 bars in spots that are dead/0 - 1 bar/roam-onto-AT&T spots for other phones on T-mobile. Downloads still managed to stay in the 2 mbps range down in the basement, with similar latencies... I was actually able to successfully place a Google Talk video call from my phone over 3G, to my laptop which was logged in on a dummy Gmail account. SIP is loud and clear as usual, with only occasional drops during peak hours when latency is a bit more variable, and might momentarily spike due to some other user doing a large file transfer on the same transmitter as me.
After some time on the $30/5GB prepaid plan, I decided that 100 minutes wasn't quite cutting it, and the next-best prepaid plan with a reasonable amount of data was $60. Since I passed T-mobile's credit check, I instead opted to go onto a contract value plan, getting the 500 minute+unlimited messaging plan, with 2 GB un-throttled data, Yes, 500 minutes is less than the unlimited minutes on prepaid $60, but I get nights and weekends unlimited anyway, so it's not so big a deal. Also, with taxes and junk fees, and a 10% student discount, the total should come out to around $57/month as opposed to the $65 or so for the prepaid plan, and I get the option of later upgrading my data plan to full unlimited for $10 more.
As for activation, store reps were quite nice (I stopped by the store near Union Square), and the manager even waived the activation fee to match the online offer for free activation. One negative: I found out later on that I couldn't transfer my remaining prepaid account balance to my new postpaid account, which was a bit of a bummer, but I had the feeling that was the case, even as the reps told me something to the contrary. Also, the process of porting my number from prepaid to postpaid was a bit complicated, as a technical glitch caused the old account to be cancelled and the number voided. After ~45 minutes on the line with various T-mobile reps, and escalation to the number transfer department, I finally managed to get an expedited order put in to re-acquire the old number and transfer it to my new account. The port happened around midnight the day I called the issue in. Most of the reps I spoke to seemed to be outsourced (could tell by accent/ apparent time differences), but they were fairly competent and quick to escalate my issue when I explained it to them. So a note of warning: though prepaid and postpaid might seem part of the same company, sometimes the right hand doesn't quite know what the left hand is doing...
[EDIT]: Whoops, forgot to post a speedtest:
»www.speedtest.net/result ··· 9769.png
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updated 2.3 years ago