Unlocked AT&T 4S on T-Mobile

KUguardgrl13

macrumors 68020
Original poster
May 16, 2013
2,485
109
Kansas, USA
I'm asking this question on behalf of my boyfriend. After 5 years with AT&T, he just unlocked his iPhone 4S and moved to T-Mobile. We're in the Kansas City area, and his coverage was pretty good for the first day or two. We drove to Chicago to visit his family, and on the way there his phone kept dropping to Edge or even lower throughout Iowa and even sometimes in Chicago. He also was on I Wireless for a while. According to T-Mobile's coverage maps, he should be getting 4G HSPA or 3G even along I-80. I'm on Verizon and have been getting LTE on my iPhone 5. I read something else on here about 4Ses on T-mobile having these issues. Anyone else experience this? He's only had the 4S since October, so he's thinking about keeping it for another few months and then getting the 5 or whatever comes later since coverage is pretty good at home.
 

codyst

macrumors regular
Nov 18, 2008
183
6
Austin, TX
I'm asking this question on behalf of my boyfriend. After 5 years with AT&T, he just unlocked his iPhone 4S and moved to T-Mobile. We're in the Kansas City area, and his coverage was pretty good for the first day or two. We drove to Chicago to visit his family, and on the way there his phone kept dropping to Edge or even lower throughout Iowa and even sometimes in Chicago. He also was on I Wireless for a while. According to T-Mobile's coverage maps, he should be getting 4G HSPA or 3G even along I-80. I'm on Verizon and have been getting LTE on my iPhone 5. I read something else on here about 4Ses on T-mobile having these issues. Anyone else experience this? He's only had the 4S since October, so he's thinking about keeping it for another few months and then getting the 5 or whatever comes later since coverage is pretty good at home.
Aren't the bands different?
 

CEmajr

macrumors 601
Dec 18, 2012
4,372
1,134
Charlotte, NC
Their coverage maps don't apply to the iPhone 4S since it is not designed to work with the 3G frequencies used on their native network. The 4s relies on their refarmed 1900mhz network which is unreliable and spotty in many areas. You'll see occasional 4G and a lot of Edge.

You can get a general idea of where the 3G areas are at airportal.de since Tmobile has yet to provide a coverage map for their 1900mhz network.

My advice, get the Tmobile iPhone 5 for full compatibility or get used to Edge with your 4S.
 

codyst

macrumors regular
Nov 18, 2008
183
6
Austin, TX
I'm not really knowledgable in that regard. All we know is what T-Mobile showed us on their coverage map.
I think T-Mobile uses 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz bands for 4G
But the AT&T iPhone 4S has 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz bands

I don't think the phone is capable of connecting to 4G on T-Mobile.
 

ipaclansite

macrumors member
Jul 31, 2011
83
0
Well in simpler terms, T-Mobile's coverage maps show support for official T-Mobile phones, not necessarily including unlocked phones.

Unlocked phones on T-Mobile's network for data service use another band (1900 MHz) which is only available in select markets. The iPhone 4S falls into this category.

Official T-Mobile phones use the 1700/2100 MHz bands for their data service, and its what their coverage maps depict. However, if the unlocked phone happens to support this band, then it will pick up full data service as depicted on their coverage map like an official T-Mobile supported phone.

So, the iPhone 4S supports 1900MHz, but does not support 1700/2100MHz.
AT&T has full 4G service because their 4G lies on the 1900MHz band.
T-Mobile does not because their 4G lies on the 1700/2100MHz band, but in some places they have added service in the 1900MHz band (this is their refarming efforts). http://www.airportal.de Shows user submitted 4G coverage on the 1900MHz band, so this coverage map may be more useful to you.
 

KUguardgrl13

macrumors 68020
Original poster
May 16, 2013
2,485
109
Kansas, USA
Well in simpler terms, T-Mobile's coverage maps show support for official T-Mobile phones, not necessarily including unlocked phones.

Unlocked phones on T-Mobile's network for data service use another band (1900 MHz) which is only available in select markets. The iPhone 4S falls into this category.

Official T-Mobile phones use the 1700/2100 MHz bands for their data service, and its what their coverage maps depict. However, if the unlocked phone happens to support this band, then it will pick up full data service as depicted on their coverage map like an official T-Mobile supported phone.

So, the iPhone 4S supports 1900MHz, but does not support 1700/2100MHz.
AT&T has full 4G service because their 4G lies on the 1900MHz band.
T-Mobile does not because their 4G lies on the 1700/2100MHz band, but in some places they have added service in the 1900MHz band (this is their refarming efforts). http://www.airportal.de Shows user submitted 4G coverage on the 1900MHz band, so this coverage map may be more useful to you.
So it seems that T-mobile has 1900mhz in Kansas City but maybe not as much in Chicago yet. I don't think you can really base service on rural Iowa. My own Verizon service was 3G and often roaming. I think boyfriend will likely keep the 4S for now and maybe switch to a newer iPhone in a few months. Thanks for the input!
 

Akack

macrumors 6502a
Mar 5, 2011
685
44
USA
Long story short, the 4S will ONLY get 4G if and only if the area has the refarmed 1900 band, and even if it is refarmed the refarmed 1900 band has poor coverage. The 4S will NOT get TMob LTE, assuming you live in the select few initial launch cities for TMob LTE.

If your bf wants to stay with TMobile, he needs to get the TMobile version iPhone 5 to take advantage of the more widespread 1700/2100 4G band, and wait for LTE once TMob turns it on where you live.

Don't compare TMob with Verizon........Verizon's network is more widespread especially in rural areas.
 

KUguardgrl13

macrumors 68020
Original poster
May 16, 2013
2,485
109
Kansas, USA
Long story short, the 4S will ONLY get 4G if and only if the area has the refarmed 1900 band, and even if it is refarmed the refarmed 1900 band has poor coverage. The 4S will NOT get TMob LTE, assuming you live in the select few initial launch cities for TMob LTE.

If your bf wants to stay with TMobile, he needs to get the TMobile version iPhone 5 to take advantage of the more widespread 1700/2100 4G band, and wait for LTE once TMob turns it on where you live.

Don't compare TMob with Verizon........Verizon's network is more widespread especially in rural areas.
I wasn't really trying to compare T-Mobile and Verizon. I didn't elaborate that my LTE was spotty in Kansas City in the last week and is much better in Chicago now. Also trying to rule out the house we're in and that sort of stuff.
 

ipaclansite

macrumors member
Jul 31, 2011
83
0
So it seems that T-mobile has 1900mhz in Kansas City but maybe not as much in Chicago yet. I don't think you can really base service on rural Iowa. My own Verizon service was 3G and often roaming. I think boyfriend will likely keep the 4S for now and maybe switch to a newer iPhone in a few months. Thanks for the input!
Sure, it all will depend on your boyfriend's needs. Its probably better for him to wait it out though, as WWDC is only a few days away, a new product launch may be imminent. From there he can determine whether or not he should upgrade. So unless he wants robust data service now and travels a lot (in the coverage area) (in which case he should buy a T-Mobile iPhone 5), he can stick it out a little longer until a new product comes out.
 

KUguardgrl13

macrumors 68020
Original poster
May 16, 2013
2,485
109
Kansas, USA
Sure, it all will depend on your boyfriend's needs. Its probably better for him to wait it out though, as WWDC is only a few days away, a new product launch may be imminent. From there he can determine whether or not he should upgrade. So unless he wants robust data service now and travels a lot (in the coverage area) (in which case he should buy a T-Mobile iPhone 5), he can stick it out a little longer until a new product comes out.
Yep, we'll see what the 5S/6 is like and what deals T-Mobile has on the 5. We don't travel outside the Kansas City area that often, and my Verizon iPhone 5 seems to do pretty well.