Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Good Bye Verizon, You Let Success Go To Your Head

Do you remember when Verizon Wireless had the best signal anywhere in the US?

There was a time when Verizon was the only choice if you wanted a strong signal anywhere in the U.S. I remember conferences where my Verizon HotSpot provided a connection in the lowest hotel conference room while my friends struggled to access a WiFi connection provided by the conference sponsor.

Early in 2016, I started to notice the change.  They told me that things slowed as more people switched to Verizon. It didn't help that everyone started using their phones to stream video and other high bandwidth uses.  It's not unusual to see someone watching Netflix or video chatting on their phone.

The bottom line; Verizon hasn't been able to keep their "Can you hear me now?" crown
. I definitely noticed the change when I moved last year. It was only 7-8 blocks away but phone conversations this year started to be impossible. Instead of a clear voice, I would hear a noise similar to Charlie Brown's teacher.

For the technical types, apps like OpenSignal, Network Cell Info or my own Mobile Network settings would report a signal would vary between -110 to -128 dBm. It meant "zero bars" trying to use 4G. I finally reached the right person with Verizon who acknowledged they could see how bad it was. I was in what they claimed to be a dead zone. They told me I could change to a new carrier without having to pay a penalty for breaking my contract.
After some research, I am convinced the future is with T-Mobile. It turned out to be a perfect solution for me.
  • T-Mobile currently has a plan for anyone 55+. Two unlimited phone lines for $60 including all your taxes and local fees.
  • We could bring our own phones. This was a plus because the price for phones these days is criminal.
  • T-mobile is paying off the $200+ I still owe for my Samsung S7 Edge. They told me they would cover any other bills I might have up to $650.
  • They're offering me $50 to any friends I recommend to switch. I don't consider this a five-star review but if you do plan to switch send your name and cell number to
  • And Best of All... I now have 4-5 bars of 4G signal!  The typical signal inside my home now averages -90 dBm.  I can now use my phone when I'm home.

Update: For me, having a working phone at home is critical. Now that I'm old and disabled I don't get out that much. I have been testing T-Mobile when I can and I'll admit not everyone will have the same results with their location. I have found T-Mobile has more local towers reported by their users but signal strength can vary. As I drive around,  the app "Open Signal" tells me the signal strength and shows which tower I am using.
T-Mobile Cell Towers in Scotia, NY

Since "Open Signal" provides user-generated data I can recommend the program to test your location before you change. Keep in mind it won't matter how close a cell tower is.  Cell signals are usually directional meaning they focus the signal in a particular direction. They are typically uni-directional or bi-directional. Most people think of a cell tower as omnidirectional.

The directional antennae will be strong for a 45 to 90-degree path.  The advantage of a uni-directional signal is it will be much stronger than an Omni-directional antenna.  In an ideal situation, Cell companies configuration their towers so each of their uni-directional signals are broadcast so that signals overlap with other towers. When this plan works they can provide a strong signal that will allow users to travel from one tower to another without a problem. This overlapping, directional signal can be proven mathematically to be the most efficient but when it's overburdened many dead spots will exist. While I am very disappointed with Verizon, I suggest you find someone in your area that uses the service you're considering. Invite them over and see what kind of signal they get at your house.

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