The Ongoing T-Mobile Saga

simcard

A few weeks back, I explained how I tried out T-Mobile’s services by way of receiving a SIM Card for my iPhone. It didn’t turn out so well, as the service was not what I was expecting. After about a week or so of having the SIM card, I returned it.

After returning it (including it being tracked by the USPS) to the address provided, I thought that was the end of the story – I tried the service, and returned it within the return window.

That’s not what has happened.

On August 17th, I received an envelope in the mail from a PO box in El Dorado Hills, California. Upon opening it, I discovered it was a past-due notification from T-Mobile indicating the following –

  1. My T-Mobile Service was now suspended. (OK, well, I terminated the service by returning the SIM Card, so I’m not sure why you’re saying it’s suspended)
  2. The reason that my (cancelled) T-Mobile Service was suspended was due to non-payment of a balance of $152.29.
  3. If I don’t pay the bill, I face the permanent deactivation of my phone service and additional actions, including the account being sent to a collections agency and it affecting my credit.

That’s a bit odd, but OK. And there’s a phone number on the bill. So, I call it. The first call that I make, I erred and had myself muted so the rep hung up on me (oops). I call again, and speak to someone in Meridian Idaho, and he indicated to me that the account was placed at a zero balance due and I would get a bill saying I had a zero balance.

So, that means it’s over, right? Everyone can go home happy and enjoy some fresh orange slices, living happily ever after! 🙂

Nope.

Last night, I received another envelope from the same mailer, but with a different address on it. This one was in Wixom, Michigan. This letter was from a company called Convergent Outsourcing Inc. This letter stated to me –

  1. This is a notice being sent by a collection agency.
  2. A balance of $152.29 is due in full for mobile phone service (again, how is that possible considering that I had the SIM card for at most 10 days – I received it on 6/29, and it was returned to the returns department on 7/9).
  3. If I do pay this debt, they may be able to offer me the option of re-connecting my mobile phone service at no additional cost.

So, I try calling – this time at just after midnight. Turns out their billing department closes at midnight. Fair enough, at the company I work for, the billing department usually closes around that same time. 🙂

I started to write this post actually as I was calling them again this morning to sort this whole sordid situation out again; I was on hold for someone when I started to write this, and got to someone who sounded like she was in the Philippines. To be honest, I was not up for talking to someone in Cebu or in Cainta or in Manila, so I asked for someone in the USA – and was promptly transferred to someone in, as she said “sunny Tampa”

Awesome, I thought, someone in the USA and I can get this sorted out. I started out a bit heated – as one would be considering that they had received word from a previous rep that the bill was zeroed out and then received a collections letter.

She tells me that there is no reason as to why I would have been told that the balance would have been zeroed out and that I owed $11.56 for services as I had the service for almost a month. I asked for her to hang on while I grabbed my mobile to check the USPS tracking on the SIM card return. When I returned, she asked for me to hold for someone in the billing department…OK, I thought you would be able to help, but I guess she transferred me due to my disputing this $11 amount – which I had accepted while I was grabbing my phone.

So, after another 3 minutes or so on hold, I am transferred to Lance to whom I explained my situation, he placed me on a brief hold, and then came back to me. When he did, he said that he was in the process of waiving the fee. I also explained that it was weird that I received this collections letter dated 8/21 but never received a bill from T-Mobile regarding the service. He was stumped to that as well.

He did tell me that the account hadn’t gone to collections as yet (again strange considering that I received a letter from a collections agency) and that the letter actually came from T-Mobile and that I can disregard this information.

From there, the call ended with me asking for his ID and for a confirmation number – he did give me his ID and has told me that the balance would be zero within 48 hours.

I’m going to check this on Sunday to see if the balance is actually zero. And if I get another collections letter from T-Mobile, I’ll be on the phone and raising holy Hell on these people as this will now get even more ridiculous than the situation I’ve found myself in.

SIM Card Shuffle

simcard

For the past 5 years, I have been an owner of two iPhones – first was an iPhone 3GS which served me decently for about 2 and a half years until I dropped it onto a concrete sidewalk and the screen cracked. There were other issues with the phone as well, such as the phone not making any sounds and then losing any ability to vibrate.

As a result, I bought an iPhone 5 which came with a new 2-year contract. Literally on the day the contract was fulfilled, I applied to have the phone unlocked, and it was unlocked pretty much straight away.

unlocked

What can you do with an unlocked iPhone? Switch carriers and maybe save money. Am I dissatisfied with AT&T? Not at all. However, some carriers have great offers and do allow you to bring your own device to them and will sell you just the SIM card.

Currently, I pay around $87 per month for AT&T’s base voice plan – 450 minutes anytime (with rollover), 5000 night/weekend, 200 SMS and 5GB data with mobile hotspot. This pricing also includes a discount that I get with them through an affinity program with my job.

I’m all for saving as much money as possible, which is what I was thinking when I started to look into service with T-Mobile. At first, the offer looks really good –

tmobileplan

So, here’s a quick pro/con list of switching to T-Mobile –

  • Pros –
    • Including taxes, I’d save around $15-20 per month on my mobile service
    • 3GB plan includes hotspot
    • Data Stash – essentially rollover data. If you don’t use all 3GB in the month, what’s left over carries over for the next month.
    • No worries about overages – if I go over on data, my speed is throttled. Right now, if I use 5.0001 GB of data, AT&T will (as a courtesy) add $10 to my next month’s payment for the overage and give me a 6th gig of data to use.
    • International roaming – if I am in, let’s say, Australia, I have unlimited data through my T-Mobile SIM. No real need to buy a local SIM unless I want to have a local number for the time I’m there, or if I want to take advantage of a full-speed network
    • Unlimited Music Streaming – I have subscriptions for Google Music and SiriusXM radio. If I’m out and about, that can be a lot of data. With T-Mobile? No worries!
    • Upfront cost? $15 for the SIM card itself and I don’t need to buy a new phone or worry about a contract.
    • Unlimited talk and texts. I’m not a big phone user, nor do I send many text messages (literally my Messages App is 99% adverts from different stores like the local gas station who sends me coupons for $1 free petrol every week ;)), but this is something that is awesome to have the ability to do.
  • Cons –
    • Smaller network – if you compare the coverage maps of T-Mobile and AT&T, you’ll see that the TMO network has more gaps and less 4G LTE coverage. This isn’t a major issue since I don’t do a lot of travelling, but it’s worth noting
    • No LTE Coverage at my house – This is an interesting one since their coverage map says that yes, I can get LTE coverage, but there’s a caveat at the bottom –
      lte
      What they mean by newly-expanded 4G LTE is that you have to have a device capable of receiving signals in the 700MHz LTE Band 12. My iPhone 5 only supports bands 2, 4, 5 and 17, so there’s no LTE at my house.

If you look at this, the pros well outweigh the cons, and it’s a no-brainer to switch my phone service over to T-Mobile. Add to that the fact that based on their plans, I recommended we use their service to get Internet at my church since the cable company doesn’t get out that far and the phone company would only offer 3×1 service (which is just a little bit more than 10% of the download listed by the FCC as the minimum for broadband service, 25Mbps), so I bit the bullet and ordered the SIM for my phone as well as the hotspot for my church.

Hilariously, I didn’t get my SIM card as planned as the folks at UPS decided to deliver it not to my house, but to a business in the city. I thought it was weird that it was delivered at a “Dock”. Thankfully the UPS guy was able to ring his office and get it dispatched to me, with only a 4 day delay.

I get the SIM card and then I put it in my phone. After seeing the No SIM message, it says that it’s searching for service. I’m doing this in my living room, I should note. I’ve gotten decent coverage with AT&T – not 5 bars, but, as TMO put it, “satisfactory” coverage indoors. I was already a bit apprehensive on the coverage on my phone after the experience with the hotspot. So, it was no surprise for me to see this message –

noservice

I had to walk outside just to get a basic signal, and that didn’t even have data available, it was just a normal cell signal. Interestingly, there was the option for me to select a carrier –

carriers

But none of them would allow me to connect. This is because T-Mobile have it set up that if you are in an area where they have radio spectrum, you cannot connect with other cell companies. Thus, even though AT&T signal may be available at my house, I can’t use it because T-Mobile has wireless spectrum.

Then, I decided to take a kit along – a plastic bag, the SIM card and its holder and a “SIM extraction tool” – better known as a paperclip – with me to work. And that was where I learnt another lesson.

 

I tried making a call to one of my favourite test numbers (it’s an automated system so no actual people, and it’s a toll-free number). When I dialed, I noticed that the data coverage disappeared altogether. This is just not something that I am used to, since with AT&T while I’m on a call, I still have data. It may not be LTE speeds, but it’s still useable.

Now the pros and cons are a bit different. Of course, the main pros of the money saving and the rollover data and the international roaming options are there, but now the cons list is changed – NO service at my house, smaller network, no simultaneous data and voice.

I still have the SIM card on hand, but I am now to the point where I am going to return it back and say thanks, but no thanks, it’s not a good fit for me right now. 🙂