User Experience: T-Mobile’s Continental Plans

TMobile-Phones-CoOmpositeEarlier this year T-Mobile altered their US Simple Choice Plans to include coverage in Canada and Mexico without roaming charges. The plans eliminate roaming while out of the country, but also eliminate international long distance when calling Canada and Mexico. Further, they include “4G LTE data in Canada & Mexico.” Since we go to Canada to visit family at least once a year the new plan sounded quite useful.

Change is hard…

Last month we made our annual trek to the Great White North. While making plans an associate, who is also a T-Mobile customer, recommended that I call T-Mobile and make sure that we had the correct plan. Failure to do so would result in us incurring the usual roaming charges for platinum-plated voice and data service while travelling.

On the very eve of our departure I remembered to call T-Mobile and make the change to the account. In fact, I called from the airport (IAH) while we were awaiting the departure of our initial flight to Toronto.

Of course, I called the from my mobile phone. The automated system advised that there would be some on-hold time, and I could opt to have them call me back, which I did. The callback took about ten minutes.

The CSR was both well-informed and well-spoken, although she did speak in a heavy Indian accent. We discussed our pending travel plans and she informed me that our plan could be changed, effective immediately. Further, the monthly cost would be largely unchanged. Feeling a win at-hand, I agreed.

The trouble was that in the process of going through this exploration and implementing the changes to our account my call to T-Mobile was mishandled a total of four times. Yes, the call was dropped four(!) times. Each time the call was lost the very nice CSR would call me back after a few minutes, and the process would resume. We eventually got it done.

…but worth the effort.

Within our household the entire concept of “Platinum-plated minutes & megabytes” stems from multiple visits to Canada. As a T-Mobile customer roaming on Rogers mobile network voice calls were 20 cents/minute. Data was similarly costly. In the past, a week in Canada, with only modest use of our phones, would literally double our monthly bill.

This month, when we arrived in Toronto Stella’s Nexus5 connected to Bell, while my One+ One seemed to prefer Rogers. While her phone had fully functional voice & data from the start, mine was not getting data when connected to Rogers. I manually set the phone to use Bell and it also started to receive data service.

When we landed in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario both of our phones carried on working normally. Data rates were respectable. So much so that we tethered my tablet & laptop to the One+ One to do some routine emails, etc. I even experimented with using the Tivo app for Android on my Nexus 7 to watch a stream from our Roamio Plus at home in Houston.

Tivo Streaming to Canada via T-Mobile

We eventually splurged, in mobile data terms, and downloaded a TV show that our nephew liked but could not watch via their satellite TV service.

There were times when we took a drive off the main highway to see some of the trees that were at their peak of fall color. During such departures from the Trans-Canada Highway we completely lost mobile coverage. As a long-time T-Mobile customer this is to be expected. Closer to home, when we venture outside of the Houston Metro area, perhaps to Thorndale, TX for example, we get only basic voice & text service. Such is life with The Uncarrier.

Happily, on this occasion the visit had zero impact on our monthly contribution to T-Mobile. We had good voice and data service while in Canada, with literally no roaming or long distance charges.

Later on, back at the homestead.

More recently, I was documenting the process of setting up a Buffalo router (WZR-600DHP) to use a Wi-Fi hotspot as it’s WAN connection. This involved me using my mobile phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. With the router wirelessly tethered, and my laptop connected via Ethernet, I ran a speed test. I was pleasantly surprised to see T-Mobile measuring 23 Mbps down and 25 Mbps up in the middle of the afternoon.

It’s something of a given that no-one likes their cellular carrier. As a group, they remain one of the most hated businesses in existence. However, some administrative bumbling aside, T-Mobile’s actual service has been impressing us lately. That’s noteworthy.

P.S. – As I suspected, it’s not possible to screenshot anything playing in the Tivo app for Android.  If it was I’d have a picture showing The Walking Dead title sequence on the Nexus 7.