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T-Mobile's coverage map doesn't look more accurate to me

I've had T-Mobile service for about two years now. I became a T-Mobile customer after a brief dalliance with Straight Talk Wireless, back in 2013. The company had just brought the iPhone 5 online — its first iPhone.

At the time, T-Mobile was still managing a transition to 4G LTE coverage from what it had before and things were rough. I went a long time before I saw any data speeds or coverage close to what I was accustomed to as an AT&T customer. Even now, though I'm having problems. Which makes T-Mobile's new more accurate map questionable, in my eyes.

In all fairness to T-Mobile, they've improved leaps and bounds in the surrounding area since then. They've really improved data speeds and coverage, and plan to continue to do so. When I go up to Boston, about an hour and a half from where I live, I get really good service (at least when I'm outside; go into buildings and things still go pear-shaped quickly).

But in my local area, about 60 miles as the crow flies from Boston, there are still lots of areas where I'll watch my coverage go down to one or two bars, or my iPhone 6 will tell me I'm now on GPRS or EDGE.

So it was with curiosity that I read T-Mobile's press release on Monday. The company claims it is a "more transparent and accurate map showing, for example, where to expect 4G LTE, 4G, 3G or other levels of coverage."

Here's what the map looks like where I live.

I live in almost the center of this map. which is almost edge-to-edge magenta: Indicative of 4G LTE coverage. When I zoomed in closer I found plenty of points on the map to show the actual customer data they're talking about. But that's not a realistic portrayal of T-Mobile's coverage in my area at all.

The area at the top of the Mac - Sandwich, MA — has a downtown area that's almost a total dead zone for T-Mobile. I can barely make a phone call in some area, let alone get anything close to 4G LTE data speeds. It's not unusual to see "No Carrier" appear on the iPhone 6.

Driving home, I'll watch my phone jump from three or four bars of LTE — in close proximity to Route 6, what we locally call the "Mid-Cape Highway," one of the main thoroughfares tourists use to get to their vacation destinations in my area — down to GPRS in the space of less two miles. Most of the ride from there may indeed be LTE, but it's only one bar, and pretty close to useless. And that's another problem I have with this map: It doesn't tell the whole story. Just because a phone registers LTE doesn't mean that LTE actually does anything.

I understand full well that any customer-facing content a company like T-Mobile is going to put on its own web site is going to be heavily skewed to favor its own marketing message, but this announcement that the map is more accurate rubs me the wrong way.

As a tech reporter, I've gotten accustomed to getting regular PR and marketing updates from T-Mobile in my in-box. They're continuing to sink a lot of money into getting the word out about their network, and they're making a lot of noise. I truly believe that T-Mobile is causing some beneficial disruption in the American wireless market, too — some of their efforts have caused Verizon, AT&T and Sprint to change the way they do business. I hope they keep it up. Just based on my own experience, however I remain skeptical of T-Mobile's claims about the overall speed and reliability of their network. They have a long way to go before they have anything as robust as their leading competitors' networks, at least where I use them.

Despite all of my ranting about T-Mobile lying, I still remain a customer. I like their position as scrappy upstart; I admire their plain-talking (often profane) CEO John Legere, I like the perks, like using my iPhone as a hotspot, rollover data (or whatever they call it), no data charge against streaming music services like iTunes Music and more, and I still appreciate the considerably lower monthly bills my family pays for coverage through T-Mobile compared to the competition.

But I don't like being lied to. And this new map lies. T-Mobile, quit lying. It insults us both.

19 Comments
  • NYC area here. In my house, Speedtest.net gives me 32.15Mbps down and 14.56Mbps up on ping 67. I recorded a high outdoors with 59.64Mbps down and 11.81Mbps up on ping 65. I'd say those are not too shabby at all. That's on my Nokia Lumia 925. Haven't gotten to test my iPhone 5S yet because I don't have a nano SIM yet.
  • Urban areas aren't the problem, near as I can tell. It's in suburbs and exurbs like where I live where T-Mobile rapidly descends into nothing. I understand that it's party a function of the radio frequencies they use — they don't get the same sort of range from the tower that AT&T and Verizon do. T-Mo's trying to fix that by deploying 700 MHz spectrum wherever it can, but it's patchwork and taking time. What's more, devices like the iPhone 6 don't yet support the 700 MHz channels that T-Mo uses, so there's no direct benefit to Apple device owners until Apple updates the phone again (and people buy them).
  • Freehold, NJ is fully covered in LTE, but I'm sitting in the Olive Garden restaurant, and it's goes No Service as soon as I step into the building. T-Mobile needs to release a 'report a problem' app where we can just as easily pinpoint problem areas as they love to run that damn speed test app. AT&T released one when everyone was complaining about the service on their iPhone. I don't know if it helped, but it sure made me feel better when all of us were sending are salvos of grief over to them.
  • This is the problem. I'm convinced the cell executives must use a different special network. It's the same with sprint. they insist they have blanket coverage but i can tell you blocks where you're lose coverage. And the execs act like there's nothing wrong. like it's fine to get service in one specific place. The problem is if you move around you're coverage is gonna be spotty. To be fair though even Verizon is spotty in parts of LA.
  • I already tweeted about this showing LTE coverage map and me in the middle with a screenshot of no service and called them out on it and their lies. Sent from the iMore App
  • I find most of these maps, no matter what service you are looking at, are bunk. Even the ones at opensignal.com are not that accurate (though better than the carriers). Part of the problem is phones are all built different and some models have better antennas than others. I deploy a lot of Verizon phones at work and certain models get excellent coverage in an area where other models do not even though they are on the same network. For instance a Samsung S4 has an excellent antenna and gets a great signal, but the Samsung Note 3 in the exact same spot picks up a weaker signal and generally has a slower speed. At least with IOS devices I find they all tend to have decent antennas (with the iPads being outstanding). Your best bet when shopping around is checking with your friends or co-workers to see what they use and how good it is for them. It's not fool proof, but still better than relying on some map that could have been created with the best equipment on their network. Verizon really lies. In Downtown Richmond, VA we can be connected to 4G with 2-3 bars and yet only get download speeds in the kilobyte range! Drive 1 mile away and it switches to another antenna and then you get 20Mb speeds. Take these maps with a grain of salt.
  • I second this article. In two areas in Texas where I get absolutely no service, the map is showing full 4G LTE with a sporadic "circle" here and there of supposed verified coverage. Verizon / AT&T should really call out T-Mobile on this practice as it's outright deceptive.
  • What they SHOULD be doing is only showing coverage where their little circles are... instead of assuming coverage in the general area just because there's a little circle there.
  • I have a similar issue. I get fleeting glimpses of LTE and 4G and 3G but mostly it is Edge data or no data at all. Even with 4G it sometimes fails with a latency error during speed test and I've had pings of over 5 seconds. Yet the new map claims to have great coverage even though T-Mobile are aware of the issue. I have to agree with Mr Cohen and call the map Bullshit and taking data that they desire rather than what is accurate Sent from the iMore App
  • Too Funny, I switched to the holy Verizon and so far its the worst network I've been on in the Carolinas, My iphone 6plus and my wifes 6 are never showing the same signal strength, and it seems like every time I need to access the web I get nothing all in areas where Verizon claims their newest network is present. We also experience a lot of dropped calls something I have not dealt with since the Cingular days. I just switched from ATT and as much as I hate to say it I will probably switch to Att or Sprint since our new house is in a Dead Zone yet Verizon's map shows all red. FYI if your indoors and you don't get a signal it doesn't mean the signal in that area isn't present the device that is transmitting an available signal may be in a vehicle passing by. This may explain some of the contradictions. Im not sure of the science but I remember being told the frequency of the carrier has a lot to do with ho well it works through buildings walls. None of my comments about Verizon pertain to indoor signal strength but that in open areas.
  • Peter, I have a theory. My buddy has T-Moble. We live in Southern, NH, about 40 miles north/north west of Boston as the crow flies (a suburb of Nashua and Manchester). I looked his address up. My small town, where my property on the Verizon map shows LTE in my front yard, and 3G in my back yard, and similar for AT&T. T-Mobile is a sea of magenta here as well. I asked my buddy. Not super technical. Said it's great now. Used to stink. Back to my theory... The "now" part? Since he got one of their boosters.
  • Have you looked at Cricket at all? They've got plans that are competitive with T-Mobile, let you do hotspots and give you AT&T's coverage. T-Mobile has okay coverage in my area if I'm outside. As soon as I go into a building, it nosedives.
  • Same problem I have with T-Mobile. Great signal outdoors (in the SoCal/L.A. area) but no signal inside most buildings. I've been with T-Mobile for about a year now and I'm getting sick and tired of going from strong LTE outdoors to "No Service" the second I enter a building. I love my "unlimited everything" plan on T-Mo but the lack of indoor signal is becoming a real problem, especially at work. I never had this problem when I was in AT&T. I just hated their prices. So I'm exploring other options now. I might either go back to AT&T, try Cricket, or just stick with T-Mobile and use my JUMP upgrade to get a different phone that supports T-Mo's new LTE band 12 (which should hopefully solve my problem with lack of indoor signal).
  • "T-Mobile's coverage map doesn't look more accurate to me" EXACTLY! Apparently everyone in my area get's perfect LTE coverage. There are no holes anywhere. lol.
  • Same in CT! My town is lit up 4gLTE - BS!!! I'm lucky if I get service at all, but the new map says it ain't so.
    Has anyone overlayed the old map with the new map to see if much has changed besides BS verified users.
  • It's T Slowble's coverage. Sent from the iMore App
  • TMobile not being truthful? No, say its aint so. If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS. Tmobile is the biggest BSer out there. And you tmobile customers keep falling for the BS. the trouble with BS is eventually it all falls down. Kinda like our truthful president. LOL. I think he s proud of Tmobiles "transparency"
  • Do you need a better reason not to trust the cloud as a primary storage device? Would you trust your HD if it were 10 times as reliable as the cloud? And that's putting speed, cost, and bandwidth waste aside.
  • For what its worth 2 weeks ago I was in that area I was being driven 28 from Falmouth to 130 north into Sandwich for business. The entire time I had 4G LTE though I didnt do a speed test it seemed snappy enough. This was on a Nexus 5 and my business partner had a similar experience on his note 3 or 4 cant remember which version. Try refreshing your cellular network info. From what I can tell the "customer verified coverage" comes from reporting out of the My-Tmobile app I cannot verify this as my iPad is wifi only but I don't believe the t mobile app in the app store for iOS is capable of reporting back coverage in the background. This coverage map may be generated by devices with more optimized radio software. I worked 13 years in the cellular industry on the network back-end for a major competitor to tmobile and something we often observed was the significant network performance differences between devices with different radio manufacturers.