Noticing drastically reduced download speeds? You’re not alone

speedtest

At the back end of last week I got sent some information from one of our readers regarding some drastically reduced data connection speeds. Since then, a growing thread on HowardForums and another on XDA-Developers seems to show that he’s not alone. I also tweeted out just before the weekend to offer some of our followers the chance to share their experience. Essentially, I wanted to make sure that people were experiencing the same and that there wasn’t just one person having hardware or software issues.

Apart from those aforementioned threads, I’ve received at least 20 emails complaining of the same symptoms. Now, while these subscribers are accusing T-Mobile of throttling, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. There could be a number of issues at play here, and checking the forums above, it’s clearly been an ongoing thing. It could be the effects of masts/towers being upgraded, or having a slightly wrong setting on the phone, or a bit of both.

Quick tip: Check your connection settings if you have an Android device, and make sure you have the right APN setting in there.

Another thing is clear: It’s not happening to everyone. I can’t imagine the number of complaints and entries to a thread would be seen if this was a real network issue.

Users are reporting that downloads of almost any kind are slowing down after a couple of minutes. This is predominantly larger files and video streams, but it’s not restricted to one app or one device, or even one location. Videos through YouTube, files through tethering, files through the mobile browser, SlingPlayer and even apps being downloaded from the App Store or Google Play Store are showing the same problem. The download starts really well, at a fast pace, and after a short while it slows to a crawl. From 20+ Mbps to a few Kbps in a minute or so. And these are in areas where signal is a good strength and is running on a minimum 3G connection.

As you can see in the speed tests below, the drop-off in speed is clear.

Locations I’ve heard from so far:

  • California: San Marcos, East Bay, Sacramento, Danville, Oakland, Salinas, Greenfield, Inland Empire, San Francisco
  • New York City, Manhattan
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Lubbock, TX
  • Boston

Devices have included iPhones, Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S4, S3, Note 2 and others. So it’s not restricted to anything except the network, seemingly. It also doesn’t seem to matter what plan you’re on. Postpaid and prepaid are both suffering.

The big problem here (apart from the reduced speeds) is that T-Mobile is seemingly unaware of any issues. Calls to tech and customer support have mostly blamed hardware or specific apps but without offering any real way to improve the situation.

Is T-Mobile throttling? I doubt it. But I’d love to hear from you if you’ve experienced the same thing. Please, use the comments below and give us the following information: What device you’re using and with which version of software, what apps you notice it in and the area you live in.

The whole idea of this post isn’t to point a finger at T-Mobile, more, to hopefully help you guys. If you’ve noticed any of this, you’re not the only one. But also, Tmo doesn’t seem to know what’s wrong or how to fix it. So, if any of you have had a successful call to Tech Support or found a way to fix the problem (even temporarily) please also share below.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped out so far, and to Brian for sending in some of his own in-depth research in to this. Let’s hope we can all get to the bottom of this problem soon.

I have reached out to get word from T-Mobile, but have heard nothing back yet. I’ll update the post if I get anything.

UPDATES BELOW: 

#1 – One reader emailed with the following tip: 

“I have found a way around this, even if its only temporary. With HSPA+ speeds being near the same in-house speeds I get, which I think are very acceptable for the technology used, I will manually go into the settings of my phone and select 3G. I have settings for LTE, 3G and 2G. So I wait till it flips back to HSPA (indicated by the H next to my signal) and go exit the offending apps, click on them to load again, and low and behold, I get them to stream, download, etc without issue. The only issue at this point would be HSPA speeds dropping out themselves, but not from throttling.”

#2 – Those APN settings – From T-Mobile’s support pages

  1. Touch Settings.
  2. Touch Wireless & networks.
    Note: This varies by software version and phone.

    • Android 1.6: Wireless Controls.
    • Garminfone: Wireless Manager.
    • Behold II: Phone Information.
    • Android 4.1 (Samsung): Connections tab then tap More networks.
  3. Touch Mobile Networks.
  4. Touch Access Point Names or APNs.
  5. If there is a T-Mobile APN, touch it. If not, press the Menu key, and touch New APN.
  6. Enter the following settings for the Data APN:
    • Name: T-Mobile
    • APN: epc.tmobile.com or fast.t-mobile.com (for LTE devices)
    • Proxy: <Not set>
    • Port: <Not set>
    • Username: <Not set>
    • Password: <Not set>
    • Server: <Not set>
    • MMSChttp://mms.msg.eng.t-mobile.com/mms/wapenc
    • MMS proxy: <Not set>
    • MMS port: <Not set>
    • MMS protocol: WAP 2.0
    • MCC: 310
    • MNC: 260
    • Authentication type:<Not set>
    • APN type: <Not Set> OR Internet+MMS (depending on software version)
  7. Press the Menu key.
  8. Touch Save.
  9. In the list of APNs, delete all others that may appear. If there is a FOTA APN, you may leave that one. To do this:
    1. Touch the APN you want to delete.
    2. Press the Menu key.
    3. Touch Delete APN.
  10. Verify that there is a circle next to the one remaining APN to show it is activated.
  11. Reboot the device.
  12. Test your data connection, by accessing a web page or sending a picture message (MMS) to yourself.

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  • Hexus K

    I’ve noticed my connection speed drop since the beginning of October but didn’t waste my time worrying until I noticed its been ongoing. Surprisingly, as I test my speeds right after reading this article, its up 25 Mbps average now. Could be that its early morning and less people on the network, not sure. I’ll run a test later in the day where there should be more network traffic… North Jersey.

  • NYCTheBronx

    Isn’t this a glitch or a bug issue on T-Mobile’s network? The download speeds where I live in Los Angeles says that I’m getting around 17mbps-21mbps. Yet, when I download an app. Regardless it being a small or large file. It downloads that app in a 3mbps speed. The same speed I used to get when I first relocated Los Angeles. Plus, I am having the same issues with some people. Where my downloads would stop half way and then I have to cancel and restart downloading that app again. Same goes for the buffering and hiccups on YouTube. Even good coverage spots back in San Jose CA where I’m getting 30mbps, my YouTube would buffer or stop half way. I don’t know what the problem is but it has been happening to me for a long time now. I hope T-Mobile fixes this issue. Going back to San Jose for a bit in a couple of weeks. I’ll do another speedtest there. Cheers.

  • Tony

    I can tell you I kept experiencing this same thing here in Wisconsin. I would call their cust service an they would put me on a new tower which would resolve the issue for me but not permanently. They told me one way to try to fix it is call your voicemail from your phone because this actually resets your tower connection sometimes. They also told me its because of the upgrades that they were doing in my area. About 1-2 months later they released their LTE network an I havent had that happenes again. Couls very well be from them making network improvements which causes their data to act funny while their doing it.

  • FYI-101

    IDK if anyone noticed but the speedtest app pushed out an update this morning…

  • Mesa Softic

    9MB/s here in Des Moines, Iowa I’m not experiencing any slowdowns

  • GinaDee

    No slowdowns here. I’m hoping these are just anecdotal flukes

  • vrm

    I agree with the verizon CEO on the unsustainability of unlimited data on wireless networks.

    Wireless networks just cannot sustain streamed video/audio continually as some users are prone to utilize it. If there is 100 MBPS bandwidth available to a tower, a dozen people connecting to it at the same time ( not unusual in an urban setting), the speeds will drop down to less than 10 mbps average. If 50 people connect, you are looking at < 2 mbps. And the LTE deployed by tmo is nowhere near 100 Mbps as most markets only have 5-10 mhz spectrum.

    As more people stream, it is more likely that users will hit the bandwidth crunch as streaming locks up a certain bandwidth and makes it unavailable to everyone else. Since streaming is a process that is engaged in continually, for minutes or even hours at a time, bandwidth is hogged by a few users and others will have to wait for them to go to bed or die (hopefully they turn off the phone before that happens).

    So there- quit whining. And stop threatening to go to at&t or verizon – they do not have any magic to make it work better; they merely do not offer unlimited data and gouge you for every MB you use.

    Wireless networks are NOT like the internet – they will NEVER be, despite marketing speak from carriers, equipment makers etc to the contrary. Implementing a packet switched network in radio is inherently a very inefficient process, has lots of overhead and bandwidth is limited by spectrum available.

    • vrm

      Every wireless customer seems to believe, erroneously, that they are the only users of the service, not realizing that they are sharing the network which has a very limited capacity.

  • Travis Tabbal

    There are a few points people seem to be missing here.

    What people are complaining about isn’t dropping to 5Mbps. It’s dropping to 5Kbps, LESS THAN EDGE SPEED. Or, in some cases, just plain cut off. I have downloads that never finish, I just get an error. That’s sitting almost directly under the LTE tower. And not just speed tests, but normal everyday stuff like updating an app. And no, I’m not a data hog. I’m about 2 days away from cycling and am at about 2.5GB on an unlimited plan.

    And while I watch my download fail, I can launch a speed test or another app and download fine, for 50MB or so. So it’s not congestion, if it were, my second session would fail immediately, not hit 30Mbps for 50MB and die. If it were congestion, a VPN session wouldn’t work either.

    If it’s upgrades, that’s one thing, but this has been going on for months. And I can’t think of a valid reason to kill sessions of completely like that even with upgrades. And I doubt they have people climbing the towers at 2AM with the temp at about 20F. I could understand slower service, but this is just weird. And cutting off transfers just leads to people or apps trying again and again, downloading the same data over and over. That’s not helpful if it’s congestion you’re trying to avoid.

    The fact the VPN changes the routing is irrelevant. The data still has to traverse the T-Mobile network to get to the internet. The issue is obviously on TMobile’s network, not the internet. If it were somewhere else, it would be effecting other networks and we would hear about it. And if it were server-side congestion, VPN wouldn’t help.

    Given the hard cut at predictable transfer sizes and that VPN gets around it, it’s hard not to see it as deliberate. If it’s malicious or not is another question that we simply can’t answer with the data we have.

    And for those “just use Wi-Fi” people, that’s great where I can, and I do. However, at the office they banned outside devices on Wi-Fi. That’s one reason I pay for cellular data. If I just use Wi-Fi, I don’t need T-Mobile or any cellular carrier. That’s not always an option though. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to want to get the service they are paying for.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of T-Mobile and their recent un-carrier stuff. But that doesn’t make them immune from having issues. And as you can’t fix issues you don’t know about, it’s reasonable to call them out about it.

    • Frustrated User

      I have the exact same issue in Salt Lake City. You described it perfectly, even the amount of time it has been happening.

    • philyew

      I’m afraid I can’t go along with your suggestion that both VPN and non-VPN traffic having to traverse the TM network proves that the problem with non-VPN traffic must be on the TM network. Your conclusion that any problem off the TM network would be noticeably affecting other networks just doesn’t do it for me.

      Why? Because TM probably use a modest number of gateways to break out of their private network into the Internet. Each one of those gateways will initially route to a primary device which will take traffic into the internet mesh. Any one of those devices could have a problem on its interface card which could be causing sporadic, but significant packet loss.

      If so, it would have a serious impact on a significant number of TM customers, but would be a drop in the ocean as far as other, non-TM internet services are concerned.

      Today I ran some tests to get an idea of latency and packet loss on a route from my PC to the Google servers. Using my ISP, it was a clean 5 hop route with good latency – less than 100ms.

      I then tested it using the hotspot on my phone. Immediately the number of router hops more than doubled and latency worsened, though not badly initially. After a period of persistent testing I saw a huge range of variability with latency anywhere between 38 and 2000ms and packet loss up to 60% on some hops.

      After that, I tested it using the Hotspot Shield VPN, which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Similar results ensued, with latency and packet loss veering wildly from one extreme to the other.

      All that can be concluded from this is that the TM network can be highly unstable. When it is at its worst, downloads will be impossible, with server connections timing out because of the delayed responses.

      All that said, it doesn’t prove that TM aren’t running a debilitating traffic shaping policy, but it does show that there are enough issues with the TM network for the problems to have another cause.

      As it happens, Legere’s tweet today blaming “a minor software issue” could be translated into my earlier suggestion that they have been tweaking traffic shaping policies and got it wrong. No malicious intent, just someone not properly understanding the impact of what they were doing. I’ve seen that before on other networks more than once.

  • Trevnerdio

    If I start downloading a big file on my computer while connected through my phone, I noticed that it gets slowed to a crawl. Glad this is finally being addressed. And before you guys say I shouldn’t be abusing my tethering, this file download is well within my allotted monthly tethering use (what a joke) and in my small city of Panama City, we have 10x10MHz LTE and very, very little congestion. I’m not hurting anyone by downloading 50MB on a computer over a phone.

    • fsured

      I just tried tethering not to download a file but to remote into my home pc with my tablet to email myself a file. Has worked previously and it now it won’t even connect. When I have tethering active there are moments where opening a web page on my phone or tablet will display the unable to connect message but after a few minutes it works fine and then bombs again.

      Not everyone who tethers or uses data is out to take advantage of the network and if you are within your data limits people shouldn’t complain. You paid for that data and they should direct their attention to those who are using programs and what not to go around the network policies.

      • Trevnerdio

        I used to try my best to get around the tethering policies simply because they’re BS. Why should I pay twice for internet usage? I can understand if I’m being obnoxious with the usage, but they used to want you to pay right out of the gate for tethering and that’s simply not okay.

        • Travis Tabbal

          On capped plans, I agree the tethering limit is BS. 5GB is 5GB, it doesn’t matter what device is the endpoint. That’s like an ISP saying you can’t have a router at home to use more than one device. Some tried that, and people didn’t tolerate it. Nor should we with tethering.

          Now, Unlimited plans are a bit different. For those, I do see reasons for having a separate cap for tethering. I’m not sure I agree with them 100%, but there are at least some valid points there.

          What’s going to end up happening with this stuff combined with the NSA stuff is people are going to start encrypting the hell out of everything and they won’t be able to tell if you’re tethering or not.

        • Trevnerdio

          I agree. I’m okay with 2.5GB on my unlimited plan, that’s reasonable.

  • Uxorious

    Same problem here (San Francisco, Nexus 4 and 5).
    Has been happening for at least 2 weeks for me.
    Starts off nice and fast, and after 10 seconds or so, drops to 2G speeds!

    As other commenters have pointed out, T-Mobile (and other carriers) throttle traffic so a few individuals can’t wreak havoc on the network.
    This is something else!
    When the carriers do QoS, they *shape* the traffic – meaning everybody will share the bandwith available.
    What is happening right now is the connection is getting clamped down hard – thats not something a carrier would do as part of normal business as it really makes the network experience terrible.

    It *is* something they would do when somebody goes over his plan data allotment – but most of us aren’t even close to that!

    Also, why does switching down to 3G make the problem go away?

    T-Mobile: Please at least make a public response that you’re investigating the issue!

  • Hawkye

    This has been driving me nuts the past month or so. If I forget to download my small podcast on my home wifi before heading to work, it will start downloading fast then cut to 2G speeds. The only way to get the podcast to finish is to stop the download and retry about 100 times. I will be almost to work by the time it finishes. It used to be done downloading by the time I get out of my community. I am in the Sacramento area using a Note 3 on TMo.

  • Trevnerdio

    Perfect example of this crap. This download started out at 768KB/s (I’m on HSPA+) and now it’s dropped down to about 120KB/s (and it was actually much slower than that), nearly stopped and decreasing every moment. The kicker? I’m using my hotspot which has only 500MB and is meant for computersss. It picked back up again after a few minutes.The speedtest result? 6.52mbps while I was doing the download.

  • Pitiful

    Pitiful network brought to you by a pitiful carrier.

    All this LTE and UnCarrier crap is smoke and mirrors. TMo is going down, and I’m moving onto a FUNCTIONAL network that actually works. Morons.

    • Deez Nutz

      I smell a Verizon or AT&T exec here.

      • breenda

        he just saying the truth why offer unlimited data and advertise as being unlimited at 4g speeds if watching youtube downloading apps is worthless if they slow u down to 2g speeds even if u in a good 4g area i like him are moving on . im paying for unlimited data my area has good 4g lte i do speed tests i get up to 20 mbps i try downloading an app or even watch a vid i CANT when downloading an app it craps out halfways never loads same with videos i have had it i gave up i had galaxy s4 lg g2 i give up on tmobile i cant even update my apps when theres an update up even with full bars lte no data comes tru hspa was fine before but now even that sucks , it just pisses me off i have to go back to at&t which is alot more expensive and gives u 3 gigs of data but lets face it they never pull a fast one like tmobile and slow down your speed as long as u use leas than 3 gigs they give u access to full speed unlike tmobile..

        • Aaron Davis

          It’s easy for at&t to give you full speed when they limit how much you can use, and charge you more for it at the same time.

  • nenes78

    I’m happy. Watching netflix daily. Just checked my speeds, 18.64Mbps down 3.94Mbps up at work North Hollywood CA. At home Burbank CA I average between 22-27Mbps down and 3-5Mbps up.Iphone5.

    • NYCTheBronx

      Nice. I’m getting 17mbps-21mbps on LTE at Wilshire Blvd. But when I download apps. The speeds are a 3mbps speed.

  • Frustrated User

    This article should be updated to explain to everyone that a standard speed test will NOT show this problem. A standard speed test will actually show great speeds most of the time. But if you run a speed test with a large file instead of the standard small file, you’ll see the speed start out great (which is why the standard speed tests show great results) but then totally bog down after a couple minutes. This is a big deal if you are tying to stream a video or download a file, or update a large app.

    By the way, I have been eexperiencing this issue in Salt Lake City for a few months now on a Galaxy S 4 then on a Note 3. We have had LTE that entire time, and I get 4 bars of LTE. I’ve called T-Mobile about it and the reps have never had any idea about what causes this. They went from troubleshooting my phone to referring me to the support of every app I use that had this issue (Google, Slingbox, etc).

  • furiousInDavis

    Same thing is happening to me on LTE but not HSPA+. I get a max of 40mbps on LTE in the Sac Area and 15mbps max on Hspa+. This started since the end of the summer. Whenever I watch something on netflix or YouTube, it loads up 1 minute and then buffers the rest of the video. When I download apps, it takes FOREVER. All the while, I run a speedtest showing LTE speeds of 35mbps. Dear T-Mobile, if I pay for unlimited data then I should get UNLIMITED DATA.

    • Chrisrj8084

      I have the exact same issue as you and it started at about the same time. No fix for it yet.

      • Irfan

        100 % right …this only happen lte not on hspa+ I tested and got same as u said ..what I am thinking 1. they have some problem going on with LTE setup .2 may be they trying to setup some extreme level internet firewalls or kind of , update is coiming to us by john its just a joke or they want some file which they control devices , In usa blocking ports on network its ileagal so they wanna do in devices for example if u jailbreak iphone u can do free facetime no neeed to pay 10$ over att ..etc

  • Croatian

    Nexus 4, KitKat (stock), Nashville, TN. On HSPA download is @ 4Mbps, upload @ 2Mbps. Watching YouTube is a perfectly smooth experiance… for now ;-)

  • cyde01

    having the same issue. htc one, 4.3 jelly bean, orange county, ca.

    • cyde01

      forgot to mention, it happens when i’m streaming video. apps include youtube, flash video using sites like daily motion, etc.

      • cyde01

        also, my device doesn’t allow me to edit the APN settings. MMSC is and i have no way of changing it.

  • Anonymous

    This is not throttling.. It’s congestion on the network, even Verizon is suffering from the same thing. They need more towers to accommodate more people using LTE.

  • http://www.brettschulte.com/ Brett Schulte

    The fall out of offering “unlimited” anything… it SOUNDS great, but it’s unsustainable. It’s impossible to offer both great speeds AND unlimited data. I’d be *much* happier if “unlimited were actually 10Gb then throttled… that would prevent bad users from ruining it for everyone.

    • tmotk

      Perhaps the sensible way to throttle unlimited plan users for excessive use would be to throttle them to a still useable speed (maybe 1Mbps) that discourages large transfers at times when ALL the following conditions are met:
      1)They used over xx GB (some piggish number perhaps 10, 20, or larger) in their current billing cycle.
      AND 2)Their current tower is congested as they attempt a new download
      AND 3)Their very recent use is also large, perhaps over 500MB in the past hour, or over 1GB in the last 24 hours.
      4)Maybe this throttle, when active, can kick in a few seconds into each continuous access somewhat like the current malfunctioning throttle, but only when these data hog conditions are true.

      When any of the conditions stop applying, the throttle disappears immediately. I am suggesting a higher throttled speed for this case than when one exceeds their plan because this is intended to improve the network experience for others when a tower is hit by data hogs, not to punish. The data plan exceeded throttle should be much lower (but higher than it is now), perhaps 0.25 – 0.5 Mbps to encourage purchase of a proper sized plan.

  • anshephe

    I think sometimes the speedtest app makes it look worst than it is i speedtest get a low result. But when i open a webpage its fast!!

  • Travis Tabbal

    From Twitter: @JohnLegere Very small # customers saw slower data recently and only when downloading very large files. Minor software issue; Fix going in place
    today

    I’ll agree to disagree on the definition of “very large files” if it does get fixed today.

  • rdubmu

    Wife is having an issue of apps taking forever to download. We are in Seattle. I have no issues myself.

  • Irfan

    happen over LTE not on HSPA+ , Arlington, VA

  • http://www.thepeoplesview.net/ Spandan

    Yup. This has been happening to me over the past week. #1 fixes the problem, and for at least a time, it stays solved even if I switch back to LTE from 3G.

  • Tropical

    I don’t see any changes here in San Francisco. Same problem usin youtube cnet and internet.

  • Lakers4life

    Try resetting ur fone, it worked for me!
    Frm Los Angeles/Orange County!

  • MuthaFuckinStephen

    Never noticed as lagging in speed here in the Bay Area.

  • ruben

    I live in El paso TX I used to get around 40 mbps around town and my house now I’m only getting 1 to 5 mbps .

  • Gary R

    I have the same problem but am working with a FIOS fiber optic cable (50 Mb) and a Debian Linux system on a desktop computer. Large file transfers start at about 5 MB and slow to about 500 KB within about 20-30 seconds. Since I also use NetFilx on my TV/DVD Player for streaming movies, and have no problem, I think it must be a harware setting problem. I live in the LA area and have 3 computers and the TV on my router /switch