T-Mobile and band 12 support in unlocked smartphones put in the spotlight

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There was a lot of noise made earlier this year when Motorola removed the Moto E (2015)‘s band 12 support, a feature that’s important to many T-Mobile subscribers. That may not be the only device to suffer that fate, though, as Android Police reports that they’ve been told by a separate “major device manufacturer” that T-Mobile is asking them to remove band 12 support from their unlocked LTE phone and that the company plans to do so.

A Motorola employee explained recently that band 12 was removed from the Moto E (2015) at T-Mobile’s request over concerns that it could show that it has an LTE signal, but if all that it has is band 12, it couldn’t actually complete a call since it has no VoLTE support. While T-Mobile hasn’t officially commented on this matter, T-Mo spoke with Android Police off the record and said that any device on its network with band 12 also needs to support VoLTE and E911. Without VoLTE, band 12 phones on T-Mo are unable to make a call if they don’t have any other T-Mo service to fall back to, and they won’t know to roam onto another carrier’s network. Removing band 12 altogether eliminates this issue.

But why not just get VoLTE? It’s said that phones that want VoLTE support must go through a certification process that one unnamed smartphone maker said is complex and expensive. As a result, some device makers may choose to just eliminate band 12 support rather than go through the process of gaining VoLTE certification.

It’s understandable that T-Mobile would require band 12 phones to work with VoLTE and E911, because Magenta doesn’t want a customer to end up in a situation where they’ve only got band 12 LTE but their phone doesn’t support VoLTE, leaving them unable to make a call. But it’s also disappointing that this requirement led to one phone losing band 12 and another possibly dropping it soon. Band 12 is an important feature for T-Mo customers, offering improved coverage over long distances and inside buildings.

Right now neither T-Mobile nor any smartphone makers are really talking about this matter on the record, so all we’ve got to go on are these comments made on background. Here’s to hoping that some official info is shared soon, though, because some T-Mo customers are likely going to get increasingly frustrated if more devices lose their band 12 support.

Sources: Android Police (1), (2)

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  • Completely understand this issue, but I hope they can come up with a worthwhile solution for OEMs. Perhaps Magenta can foot the bill for certifying VoLTE..

    • steveb944

      Considering they’re not selling the phone themselves, VERY doubtful that’ll happen.

      • fentonr

        Maybe, although T-Mobile doesn’t make money on selling phones, they make money on selling services. If this provides a good way for them to sell significant services, they may (I don’t disagree with you, I don’t think they will).

        • Will

          T-Mobile is a for-profit company not a charity. Why would they spend money when they don’t have to do so? They offer the program but if a phone manufacturer doesn’t want to foot the bill, then that was a choice of the manufacturer, not T-Mobile.

          I do think it is the wrong direction for T-Mobile as it shows that despite all the “un-Carrier” marketing nonsense that they will eventually act just like Verizon and AT&T.. They could have avoided this by not rolling out VoLTE until it was ready for prime time. Verizon can do VoLTE on their 700 band because they already have the CDMA 850 band to fall back on. T-Mobile can’t do that so they should have waited on VoLTE. They pre-VoLTEd.

        • Diego Anza

          The problem is LTE doesn’t have a circuit switched core like CDMA, GSM or WCDMA networks do so without VoLTE there’s no phone calls or SMS on an LTE network period. Because band 12 propagates about twice as far as band 2 or 4 do it will happen in some areas and in some buildings that the only available signal is B12 LTE. Are you suggesting T-Mobile should stop deploying band 12 until VoLTE is as ubiquitous as circuit switched calls? I think not…

  • Sushimane

    So whats gonna happen with one plus 2 phones? For me I never had the best chances with volte because for some reason it echos but when I unchecked the volte it sound better no echo I currently using a Xperia z3 love the phone.

    • Will

      Probably nothing. Oneplus phones are built on incredibly small profit margins. They don’t build phones specifically for U.S. carriers like T-Moble. They target Asia and India which are the real growth markets for cell phone OEMs.

      OnePlus did promise VoLTE in an update. But they have not promised T-Mobile certification. So without the certification, Band 12 might as well not exist on the OnePlus 2.

      I got tired of all this and switched from using my OnePlus One to a Nexus 6. Band 12, VoLTE, and Wifi Calling all work flawlessly. I will miss the customizations and the cool “Hey is that the OnePlus One” that sparks up conversations at meetings.

      • Sushimane

        Do you have echo issue when ur on volte because I do but when I unchecked the box for volte it’s clear.

  • resource

    Complicated issue but as the Uncarrier they really need to come up with a solution that allows unlocked phones to be first-class citizens on their network.

    The unlocked phone market is the most interesting part of the tech landscape. Not being able to take advantage of it is disappointing as a constant upgrader.

    • biggerboy

      No they don’t. The market segment of which you speak may be interesting but incredibly tiny.

      • zx6guy

        Because byod is something T-Mobile doesn’t want to get involved in right?

    • fentonr

      That’s not a bad point, they’ve branded themselves the uncarrier and this is the sort of thing that is expected of them because of that. Of course, it’s possible that the manufacturer just doesn’t want to certify their phones. I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to, but that’s possible.

    • Stone Cold

      Both parties are at fault manufacturers for not wanting to do certification, T-Mobile for not doing more to help resolve this. There may be folks that want to BYOD that now cannot.

  • steveb944

    That sucks.

    So we’ll have to check for VoLTE prior to buying unlocked. I just wish that were more open with that information.

    • Will

      It’s more than that. You also have to check to see if the device has passed T-Mobile’s VoLTE certification process before using it on T-Mobile. It is possible to have a Band 12 phone with VoLTE that has not been certified by T-Mobile and therefore is not recognized as compatible.

      Each model of phone (and not the chipset in the phone) needs certification. Some manufacturers may see this certification process as an unnecessary cost and not play along with T-Mobile’s policy.

  • Why is validating VoLTE difficult and expensive? Making and receiving a phone call in a test environment where only band 12 LTE is available isn’t rocket science. Is TMO making the test unnecessarily difficult or are the phone manufactures whining for the sake of whining?

    • No, it’s probably the phonemakers not wanting to spend more time and money in gaining certifications for VoLTE since they already sold the phones. Disabling it is quick, easy, and cost them nearly nothing.

      People can start a class action lawsuit on this. Advertised Band 12 but doesn’t support it.

      • taxandspend

        When they don’t do that, they lose the ability to sell to 55 million customers or so in the case of T-Mobile.

        • Most of Tmo subscribers or any carrier won’t buy the Moto E. The unlocked market probably works better overseas where they don’t have the same locked-in plans as the US.

          The only phone in the US that has potential sales from all customers is the iPhone. In Japan, nearly everyone uses iPhones.

        • taxandspend

          But we don’t have locked in plans any more. That’s the idea of unlocked phones. Verizon is activating them now. T-Mobile and AT&T do that all the time.

          If the Moto E had band 12 support, many T-Mobile customers would see it as a good option.

        • That’s not what I’m saying. Moto E is a cheap and low volume model in the US. They won’t spend money on it from a business POV. Most phones in the US are carrier locked. Most of the phones Tmo subscribers use are bought from Tmo and therefore also carrier locked. Lastly, Tmo may not have locked in plans but they have locked in leasing and EIP. I would say the majority of new subscribers will use EIP or leasing because they want top end phones. The US is one of the few countries that the majority buy high end phones.

        • taxandspend

          “Moto E is a cheap and low volume model in the US. ”

          T-Mobile has cheap phones that do have VoLTE. How about the new HTC Desire 626S. Cheap, and HTC got it certified.

    • taxandspend

      That’s what I’d like to know too. How expensive could it possibly be? All the T-Mobile branded handsets go through it. Is Motorola/Lenovo hurting that badly that they can’t afford a few thousand dollars to certify that the device works?

  • varun

    This is terrible. Can you imagine any other VOIP technology – like Hangouts – caring whether your backhaul is 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wifi or ethernet? Yes, I know those services don’t provide E911 service, but then again, oddly we can do Wifi calls using VOIP.

    • fentonr

      I don’t disagree but I’m not sure what the legal ramifications of this are. I’m pretty sure that it’s a legal requirement that carriers have to provide 911 service (or E911) for any phones connected to their cellular networks. If a wifi call is placed on a phone that supports E911/VOLTE then technically the carrier is still providing these services even if they aren’t available for that call type. I agree that the practical implications aren’t any different but I think the difference is that carriers have to provide E911 service while VOIP providers don’t have to. If that’s the case then it’s a stupid distinction but stupid distinctions don’t matter when it comes to lawyers and law suits (or FCC fines). Just speculation, I don’t know that this is the case but given T-Mobiles reasoning it wouldn’t surprise me if something like this is the case.

      • Mark

        I know in my state that landline-style VOIP providers (e.g., Time Warner phone service) need to handle E911; they have to do special setup on the cable modem for each location to accommodate it.

  • Hmm. the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 supports band 12 and has VoLTE, however not certified with T-Mobile yet…..at least.

  • This is indeed very disappointing, especially because phone makers often do not bother to list VOLTE as one of the supported features.

  • eanfoso

    I call bs, this is just a way for t mobile to ge us to buy a phone directly from them, can’t believe this is happening, for if there is band 12 LTE there’s also guaranteed edge service to fall back on and make phone calls.

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      “for if there is band 12 LTE there’s also guaranteed edge service to fall back on and make phone calls.”

      Not true. While all band 12 LTE towers also broadcast EDGE, at the cell edge it is plausible that a phone could pick up LTE but not EDGE due to the longer range of the lower frequency LTE signal (700mhz vs 1900mhz. The same could be said for a user in an area where obstacles prevent the higher frequency signal from getting to them – like a basement

    • Keith

      No. 700 propogates 2X further than 1900, which is what E is on. With out Volte you would have signal but could not make any calls only data.

    • John Wentworth

      The phone manufacturers don’t have to disable band 12, their other option is to get VoLTE certification. They are choosing to disable band 12 because it’s cheaper.
      I think that’s were the ire belongs

  • Henry Pham

    So since T-Mobile carries the Nexus phones, then the Nexus is the only “unlocked” and certified device with band 12 support? Here’s hoping the next Nexus 5 will support band 12. Although I love my Alcatel Idol 3, I’ll upgrade if it loses band 12 support.

  • cloud strife

    As I understand their reason, it doesn’t feel that it is enough to justify for them to do that. If I remember correctly, they have a disclaimer on BYOD that some features might not be optimized or will work with the network. Another thing is usually, people who buy unlocked phones knows about phones than average consumers so they know what VoLTE means, how to change bands and circumvent non VoLTE thru VOIP/Hangouts. And if the band gets disabled, wouldn’t that affect another network that uses band 12 somewhere in the world?

    • Guest

      Having a disclaimer covers them legally, but it doesn’t prevent customers from becoming confused and upset when a non compatible phone doesn’t work.

    • Mark

      I don’t think Hangouts is going to work for calling 911, and my hunch is that emergency calling requirements in general, and E911 especially, might be the “reason behind the reason”. The last thing anyone should want is a phone where the emergency calling feature doesn’t work.

      • John Wentworth

        exactly this is question of avoid legal battles due to failed 911 calls.
        Courts overrule disclaimers like the ones they put in small print on BYOD all the time.

      • Dustin Roe

        You say emergency calling feature, I say Government tracking and logging system. Either way it is a government requirement the phone manufacturers are not willing to pay to meet so T-Mobile is forced to disable the non-compliant function.

  • DStudio

    At first glance, this makes little sense.

    If given the choice between data-only and NOTHING AT ALL, guess which one I’d choose?

    Apparently the key to understanding this is to realize that T-Mobile *depends* a lot on roaming in this situation. I didn’t realize it was so critical so often.

    • ArchangelRenzoku

      T-Mobile customers also have wifi calling though, too.

      • John Wentworth

        Yes as someone who understands the complexities of different LTE bands. VoLTE and e911 your right.

        Now try to consider it from the perspective of the average american, who doesn’t even know what a LTE band is, they see a signal bar, but their calls are failing. How angry is that person going to be when they call support
        To them their service is failing (even though really it’s a limitation of there device)

        Further consider the legal implications of someone not being able to call 911 in an emergency due to this technical limitation. especially if they could have had a successful call to 911 had roaming worked properly.
        It’s a legal nightmare and it makes sense for both T-mobile and the OEM to remove the feature.

  • Bradley Karas

    Can someone please explain the allure with buying an unlocked phone??? I get the Nexus devices because you aren’t getting the manufacturer specific UI’s just vanilla Android but really WHO CARES???? They are all the same price brand new out of the box!!!! So buy a phone full price and pay in full, call T mobile to unlock it and you have an unlocked phone with band 12 support and VoLTE!!! Bam! Problem solved!!!!

    • Adam

      I found used Verizon phones are cheaper than used T-Mobile.

      • Will

        Exactly the same for me. I bought a Nexus 6 for Verizon at Costo for a penny. Now I can use the phone on T-Mobile.

    • Will

      Because the carrier phones come loaded with bloatware and usually have locked boot loaders. Plus you have to wait for the carrier to upgrade the phone to a newer version of Android. And that seems to not ever happen with budget or midrange phones. Unlocked phones usually get the latest and greatest Android right away.

      I could see the argument for buying a carrier branded phone if they were still subsidizing the phone purchase. But if I am paying full price for a phone, it better be unlocked from day one.

      • Bradley Karas

        Dude I have the S6 and I got the latest update with T mobile right away…Samsung is trying to change that and T mobile is working with them to accomplish that. And the bloatware is almost done or you can disable on the new Samsung

        • Will

          Yes but the S6 is not a budget or mid-range phone now is it? It is incredibly expensive. The problem with upgrades is really with low and mid-range phones which are the largest base of customers. Not everyone wants or can afford the S6.

          And you still had to wait for the update to be approved by T-Mobile. The Nexus devices got it on day one. Just saying.

        • Bradley Karas

          We aren’t talking about low to mid range vs high end devices we are debating locked vs unlocked devices

        • Chris

          Yes, and there are a lot of unlocked devices that are mid-range phones (Moto G, Moto E, Huewaii, Asus ZenPhone2, etc.)

          These are all decent phones especially if you don’t play a lot of 3D games and just do casual gaming, e-mail and surfing web.

          So the point that Will said still is true.

        • Bradley Karas

          So you get what you pay for then…mid range devices and no band 12.

        • Will

          Yes but the majority of unlocked devices are low to midrange devices not high end devices. So you can’t remove the cost of the device from the unlocked device conversation.

          The growth for cell phones is unlocked budget and mid-range devices.

  • Matthew Lynn

    I ordered the 3rd gen Moto G at the end of July when its specs showed that it supported Band 12. Of course, that support has been removed and I have switched to Straight Talk wireless. My phone works very well on their network, using Band 4 for LTE and switching to 3G when I make a voice call. I’d be happy to switch back to T-Mobile if they do decide to support VoLTE, but the poor signal I get in my house makes it impossible to use them now.

  • nd5

    Sorry but this is 100% completely unacceptable! T-Mobile has been at the forefront of the movement to get away from subsidised phone pricing, and the next natural extension of this is that people should beging looking elsewhere for the phones. There is an ever growing list of great unlocked phones that are available at very reasonable prices that somehow are not suitable for use with T-Mo’s new band 12 LTE networks.

    Will this also hamper the upcoming Moto X Pure??? That is the phone I currently have my sights on.

    For too many years I have had to watch the other carriers get the best phones because T-Mobile didn’t have the right LTE bands. This is just another version of that age-old story. Can’t get the best new phones because of VoLTE? Isn’t there any workaround that can be done on the network side?

    • Diego Anza

      You can never use 100 percent of the features of a carrier with a phone that isn’t certified by them. This isn’t anything new. Until VoLTE becomes as ubiquitous as circuit switched calls, if you want B12 with T-Mobile just buy a phone from them. They make sure their handsets work with their network. Or you can buy an unlocked IPhone 6s with band 12 when it comes out, Apple has worked with T-Mobile (unlike Motorola) to get Wi-Fi calling and VoLTE working out of the box. It’s not a perfect world and T-Mobile can’t be blamed from it.

      • nd5

        Diego I get that… but here’s the thing. I currently have a OnePlus One, which is a great phone that I paid $350 out the door for. The major drawback of that phone is that it doesn’t support Band 12 which to me means poor LTE signal strenght in outlying areas and inside of buildings. I could care less about VoLTE… I want good data! My next phone is likely to be the new Moto X, which will probably be ~$450. Both my current phone and my planned next one are much less expensive than the iPhone 6 or Samsung S6 on sale by T-Mobile today. And they have less carrier bloatware, and a better Android experience.

        Unlocked phones are quickly becoming a valid option for many of us. T-Mobile needs to again find a way to get in early on this movement or get left in the dust by the Big 2… Just my $0.02.

        • Diego Anza

          I hear what you’re saying but at the end of the day, the device is being sold as a phone to make and receive phone calls. T-Mobile has a legal requirement to support emergency calls on its network so allowing a PHONE on their b12 network without that ability would be calling for legal trouble from day one. One plus or Motorola would not be the ones being sued, T-Mobile is. You need to realize that VoLTE is at its inception, this will improve quickly and in a couple of years it will be on every phone unlocked or not. Until then we need to live with these trade-offs….

    • John Wentworth

      Moto X Pure is getting the VoLTE and E911 certification done, so you should be fine.
      This is really an issue with the OEM’s including band 12 but not getting the VoLTE and E911 certifcation. Especially on cheaper unlocked phones.

      T-mobile can’t fix the issue, it’s up to the OEM to make their phones compatible with T-mobile’s band 12.
      Note that I don’t think they are forcing them to disable band 12, they are just asking
      Though they are probably mentioning the possible legal ramifications.
      It’s up to the OEM to decide what to do one of their options to is certify the phone for VoLTE and E911

      • Will

        Actually T-Mobile can fix the issue temporarily. They can turn off VoLTE on band 12. That would force calls to Band 4. T-Mobile took a short-cut to creating a VoLTE network. They do share some of the blame.

        • John Wentworth

          No, turning off VoLTE on band 12 would make the problem much bigger.
          LTE doesn’t have an voice capacity without VoLTE, so turning it off would mean no one who can only receive band 12 could make a call.
          regardless of if VoLTE is supported on the device

          Forcing calls to band 4 doesn’t fix anything if their is not band 4 coverage in your location.

          The OEM may be able to somehow force roaming if they have band 12 enabled but no VoLTE capability.

        • Will

          That’s my point. If they can’t guarantee that Band 12 calls will work on every device, they should turn off VoLTE. A phone won’t automatically make a call on Band 12 if VoLTE is disabled. It would follow the same behavior that Verizon and AT&T phones do. It would revert to the primary “voice” band that the carrier selected. For example on Verizon, it would revert to CDMA which on Verizon is on 850 not 700. 700 is only used for LTE data on Verizon. Verizon didn’t rely on the 700 frequency to build out its network. It built out the same exact footprint that it’s CDMA network already had.

        • Diego Anza

          You’re just not getting it…

        • Will

          Actually I completely understand the issue. Some people just do not like the correct solution.

        • Chris

          No, the correct solution is for the OEMs to get VoLTE certified on their unlocked phones.

        • Will

          Due to certification cost issues that probably isn’t going to happen. So the correct solution is to either disable VoLTE to eliminate the issue or build out band 2/4 until the coverage is identical to band 12.

        • John Wentworth

          degrade the network for the sake of OEM’s that won’t play pay for certification makes no sense what so ever.
          It’s the OEM’s job to make their unlocked phones compatible with the networks they claim to support, not the other way around.

        • Will

          It’s a liability issue and a legal workaround for T-Mobile to require certification. The OEMs won’t be the ones sued so T-Mobile should go the extra step and make sure that they won’t get sued and work with the carriers to make sure the phones work on their system rather then just create a Verizon like whitelist of certified phones.

        • randomnerd_number38

          Your solution solves a problem for a tiny minority of people while creating a problem for the vast majority of people who get their phones from T-Mobile. So illogical.

        • Will

          But technically correct.

        • Diego Anza

          That wouldn’t work it would only aggravate the problem since wherever the only usable signal is B12 there would not be a way to make phone calls on all devices.

        • Will

          Actually it would since the phone would then NEVER try to make a call on Band 12. It would simple fail the call right away if no other bands were available.

        • Diego Anza

          It would not. The phones would stay on b12 without the ability to make 911 calls and would not try to roam onto ATT because they get strong T-Mobile signal. Boom, huge lawsuit up T-Mobile’s a$$…

        • Will

          No that is not correct. If Band 12 does not have VoLTE enabled on it, it would be treated just as a data channel and would attempt to search for an appropriate HSPA channel. If none was available due to poor signal strength, the call would fail. A no service is better than the person wondering why they could not make a call. And we are all used to seeing No service messages on T-Mobile. It’s part of being on this network.

        • Diego Anza

          Exactly. But there is NO such available channel. We’re talking about areas where the only available signal is b12 without anything else to fall back to. That’s what you’re not getting, Will.

        • Will

          The problem really is that they need to build more towers. You seem to ignore that problem, Diego.

        • Diego Anza

          Are you going to give them the money? You need 4 times more towers to cover the same territory with b4 or b2. We’re talking about rural areas where they never had coverage before like northern Michigan etc. I’d save the money to buy more spectrum. In a couple of years all phones will be compatible anyway. It just doesn’t seem very intelligent business wise.

        • Will

          T-Mobile is not a charity, so no. They made a business choice and their are consequences to their choice whether right or wrong.

          In order to ever compete correctly with AT&T and Verizon, they will need to just eat the costs and build more towers. That’s what Sprint is doing. In business you have to spend money to make money. Lately it seems like T-Mobile is just setting itself up to be sold. Increasing the customer base makes the for sale value increase dramatically. Is their motivation to make money for T-Mobile shareholders when they do get purchased or provide a top-tier customer experience?

        • Diego Anza

          I think you’re getting off topic. We could have a discussion about sprint vs T-Mobile but I’m not interested. Good talking to you will have a good day!

        • Will

          Good talking to you as well!

        • Marvin Lilmarv Bolden-Mitchell

          T-Mobile just done jacked up thats all and they call sprint stupid lol………

        • taxandspend

          VoLTE is the future. No reason at all to start making old technology mirror the new.

        • Will

          Then they should have built in a fall back. Anyone that has used VoLTE knows that it is still early and dropped calls are common. So having a non-VoLTE network equal to the same scope as the VoLTE network is essential to perfect coverage.

        • taxandspend

          The whole point of band 12 is to expand their coverage. What would you say about the expansion into buildings that’s possible with band 12? You already know the AWS and PCS don’t get in, so there would be no fallback.

        • Will

          That would be correct behavior. No Service would be displayed for phone calls when a call is made.

          T-Mobile took a shortcut to try to improve their coverage. But it relies on the idea that they certify EVERY device capable of Band 12. That’s not ever going to be possible.

          Ideally what they should have done is just rolled out HSPA+ on Band 12 with no LTE since they only have 5×5.

        • taxandspend

          “No Service would be displayed for phone calls when a call is made.” Which is exactly why they’ve asked for band 12 to be disabled. So that no one gets fooled. They have signal, try to make a call, and the phone says no service. They probably really asked Motorola to either disable band 12, or make sure VoLTE was supported.

        • Will

          But it is not T-Mobile’s place to disable it on the phone when it is an issue with the network.

          Now people that don’t even use T-Mobile cannot use Band 12 in other areas (like Rogers in Canada) that use Band 12 if they buy a Moto E or Moto G.

        • taxandspend

          If the phone doesn’t do VoLTE, then when the user is on Roger’s network, if they don’t have some other band with coverage in the same location as band 12, the phone won’t be able to make calls there either.

        • taxandspend

          That wouldn’t fix the problem at all. That would make all the rest of the phones behave as if they were Moto E’s with no VoLTE on band 12 prior to band 12 being disabled.

        • Will

          Correct. They could still use Band 12 for data just as Verizon uses Band 13 (700) for data but uses CDMA for calls. AT&T uses Band 17 for data only and a different band for calls. Sprint does the same, etc., etc.

        • taxandspend

          But T-Mobile was never a CDMA carrier and never had those low frequencies available. Band 12 is brand new. It’s for expansion, not for backwards compatibility.

        • Will

          That is exactly why Band 12 should have been implemented as HSPA and not LTE with VoLTE only.

          Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T already had voice services in the lower bands (regardless of whether they used CDMA or GSM). T-Mobile needs to catch up with that first since they don’t have the capability to do both with the limited 700a band.

        • taxandspend

          “That is exactly why Band 12 should have been implemented as HSPA and not LTE with VoLTE only.”

          T-Mobile isn’t interested in advancing legacy technology. They want to expand coverage. They want to eventually become all LTE. This is how you get there. There will always be some older phone that doesn’t support the new frequency, so are you saying they should shut it off? I doubt it.

        • Will

          The other option is that T-Mobile can build more towers so that Band 2/4 have the same footprint as Band 12. But of course that costs money and would not make T-Mobile profits.

      • Aiki Man

        Can you corroborate this information?

    • vinnyjr

      I also have my eye on the new Motorola X, Pure, that would suck if no band 12 support on that killer phone.

    • I truly hope this will not be an issue when the Lumia 940 XL comes out!

  • vinnyjr

    Don’t understand, if the phone has Band 12 but doesn’t support VOLTE, it just drops down to HSPA to make a call. That isn’t the reason, it couldn’t be? I have VOLTE shut off on my phone due to battery drain, never dropped a call, never. I’ve been hooked to band 12 and still no issues. Solid call connections.

    • Will

      The problem is that T-Moble chose to not roll out HSPA+ on Band 12. This was partly due to the limited nature of the amount of bandwidth. But it was also a cost saving move as they want to move to an all VoLTE network. The problem is that Band 12 travels farther than Band 4. So there is a situation where the phone may only see Band 12 and not Band 4 and so would not have HSPA (not present on band 12) to fall back to complete the call.

      Verizon originally rolled out its 700 band as data only. But their calls all go onto the 850 band CDMA network (which is 100% the same footprint as their LTE 700 network).

      • Diego Anza

        They only have 5mhz so they can only support one technology and besides there are no devices or network equipment in the market that support HSPA on the 700mhz band. T-Mobile didn’t really have a choice here.

        • Will

          Exactly my point. They should have waited before rushing out VoLTE since it would not be compatible.

        • John Wentworth

          All of their phones that have band 12 support VoLTE, so it’s completely compatible with their devices.

          To expect them to wait until every unassociated OEM includes VoLTE standard on every GSM device is unrealistic.
          Unsupported carrier features when using an unlocked device is fairly standard.

        • Will

          Yes but no being able to use a phone as a phone is a pretty big “unsupported feature”.

          Face it..they pre-VoLTEd early. Now there is a mess everywhere.

        • John Wentworth

          Sorry I don’t agree, unlocked phones don’t have all the features of carrier phones, that’s always been true.

          Deploying new technology is how progress is made, no Smartphone OEM is going to start building VoLTE phones standard when networks don’t have VoLTE active. How would you even feasibly test it? The network has to come first.

          The network is always built before the phones, T-mobile knows it’s important that’s why they require VoLTE on all band 12 phones they sell
          It’s going to take unlocked OEM’s a little while to catch up, their is always this delay with unlocked phones.
          For instance when LTE was just starting to be deployed, only carrier phones had it for the most part. Unlocked devices with LTE came later. The problem here is that OEM’s tried to jump on the band 12 bandwagon, but half assed it.

        • Will

          I disagree. VoLTE is a standard. What is not a standard is all the added functionality that now requires certification to be approved for use on the network with this “added functionality”.

        • John Wentworth

          VoLTE and E911 is a standard, and just like phones that operate in the US need to be certified by the FCC, phones that want to include VoLTE and E911 need to be certified, just like a phone needs to pass through the FCC. E911 can literally be a life or death situation.
          I kind of want an external authority checking on that.

          It’s simply legally prudent to certify E911 functions.
          And many of the phones in question don’t support VoLTE at all at a software level.

        • Will

          Right but T-Mobile is now requiring an additional certification which really increases the cost of building a device.

        • John Wentworth

          Maybe based on their experience they feel they need those additional certifications. With E911 which won’t work if you can’t make a call, the legal ramifications are quite severe.

          It’s unfortunate without a doubt, but delaying network improvements isn’t an answer.
          Especially considering the fact that over time it will be resolved as OEM’s produce only VoLTE handsets

        • Will

          No it’s totally a legal defense strategy because T-Mobile is the one that would be sued not the phone manufacturer.

        • taxandspend

          HTC Desire 626S has it. That’s not an expensive phone. Yet it was certified. They probably won’t sell as many of those as Motorola is going to sell of the E,G, etc.

        • Will

          Isn’t the Desire 626 coming to T-Mobile as a branded phone as well?

        • taxandspend

          626S already came to T-Mobile. My point is it’s cheap and it supports band 12.

        • taxandspend

          There is a mess everywhere? I don’t think so. The Moto E which is probably the primary phone everyone is miffed doesn’t support VoLTE, simply needs it enabled. If Motorola doesn’t want to do that, they made the right choice to disable band 12. That way no one gets fooled into thinking they can make a call because they have a great signal and can surf the web.

        • Will

          You forgot the Moto G, OnePLus 2, etc. All these phones came out with Band 12 but because they aren’t sold by T-Mobile they will experience the same mess.

          Also what about people coming from overseas that might have Band 12 enabled on their phone and pick up a T-Mobile SIM for their short stay?

        • taxandspend

          Are you worried about visitors?

          Motorola will probably make sure some of their new band 12 phones work with T-Mobile. We’ll find out in September.

          How does disabling VoLTE fix this problem?

          Enabling support for VoLTE fixes it.

        • Will

          VoLTE should be disabled on the network not the phone.

        • taxandspend

          No it shouldn’t. Then all the phones that do support VoLTE and band 12 also wont’ be able to make calls in the areas that the Moto G couldn’t. What good is that???

        • Will

          It’s the correct behavior.

        • taxandspend

          So no one can take advantage of new features until all the old phones are weeded out??? We’d still be wearing furs and lighting fires with sticks.

        • Will

          Or T-Mobile could simply trade in incompatible phones for ones that are compatible. That would really make them the Uncannier.

          I don’t judge…if you want to wear a fur and light fire with a stick, go for it.

        • taxandspend

          New phones will support it. Those that don’t won’t sell as much as if they did. I’d buy my wife the Moto E if it supported it. But at this point, that would be a downgrade as her year old (inexpensive) phone already supports it.

        • Will

          Or a customer might also look at other carriers since the phone they like doesn’t work on T-Mobile correctly. Your Moto E would work perfectly on Cricket and have better coverage.

        • taxandspend

          But it wouldn’t have VoLTE would it.

        • taxandspend

          It would work on Verizon too.

        • Diego Anza

          T-Mobile isn’t ditching circuit switched calls and going to an all VoLTE network anytime soon. They just have a problem in some areas because the only sub-GHz network they have is LTE only and there wouldn’t be a legacy network to fall back on. Only some areas, but still a huge liability because of E911. So are you saying they should refrain to deploy B12 until VoLTE is on every unlocked phone from every manufacturer in the world?

        • Will

          No they should disable VoLTE during the rollout but keep Band 12 for data use only. That’s how both Verizon and AT&T rolled out their 700 frequencies (data only).

          They could also fix the problem by spending money and building more towers so that Band 4 covers the same geographic footprint as Band 12. But they are not going to do that since that would put them in debt quickly.

        • Diego Anza

          Nope

        • Will

          What is your better solution then? How about free phones to make people ignore the problem. That worked in the past.

        • Diego Anza

          There isn’t one. Even when 600mhz is available to deploy it will be LTE only. The situation will improve in time as device manufacturers mature their VoLTE implementations. In a couple of years it will be a non issue since it will probably be baked into the operating systems so even low end OEMs are certified out of the box. Until then you can stick to T-Mobile devices if you want to make full use of their network…

        • Will

          That’s a big maybe and not based upon any real facts.

        • Diego Anza

          It’s just a reasonable assumption. You’re free to disagree. I’m not here to impose my opinion on anyone. Peace out!

        • taxandspend

          That’s not true. They enabled VoLTE long before they had any 700MHz spectrum active anywhere. Their LTE network at the time was far smaller than their HSPA network.

        • Will

          Correct but when they rolled out band 12 it was only with VoLTE and not data only like all the other carriers that use a similar 700 frequency band.

        • taxandspend

          That makes no sense either. Band 12 is VoLTE and data. All of their band 12 phones support VoLTE. There is no good reason for them to disable VoLTE and wait for devices other than their own to support VoLTE before enabling it again.

        • Will

          Disabling VoLTE on Band 12 would force the phone to use Band 12 as a data band only similar to how Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint currently work. The phone would then not try at all to place a call which would fail if it lacked VoLTE on the phone. It would then correctly and from the beginning only use bands that allow voice calls. This how every other carrier works here and abroad.

        • taxandspend

          Then it would drop back to 4G and have no signal and make no call. And my phone which supports band 12 would have no way to make a call. Or, OEMs who want to sell their phone can make sure they support VoLTE.

        • Will

          That’s the whole point here. If no phone call is able to be made because Band 2/4 cannot penetrate as well as Band 12 then no phone call should be able to be made on Band 12. It should report no service for phone calls just like old flip phones will do if they don’t support certain bands.

        • taxandspend

          Which is why they asked Motorola to disable band 12.

        • Will

          But should a carrier have that capability to make an independent OEM disable a device because of an inability of the network?

        • taxandspend

          “But should a carrier have that capability to make an independent OEM disable a device because of an inability of the network?”

          No. But do they want to get in a situation where their network violates FCC regs. when someone with a signal can’t make a 911 call? Disabling VoLTE wouldn’t fix that either. Disabling the band at least lets the user know there is no service in their location.

        • Will

          But it fixes the problem for T-Mobile regardless of wether or not the phone owner uses T-Mobile.

        • taxandspend

          Disabling band 12 fixes it for T-Mobile. Your “inability of the network” comment is wrong too. The network has the ability to do VoLTE. IT’s the device that doesn’t.

        • John Wentworth

          It’s more an effect of the situation they are in, they only had mid spectrum airwaves before band 12, and they only have 5 mhz x 5Mhz to work with at this point.

          It’s not cost effective for them to build out the entire HSPA network or in some cases even possible with the same coverage using AWS or 1900Mhz to cover all every place would be covered with band 12.

          VoLTE and LTE are the future, and they wanted to make the most of their very limited low spectrum, so they deployed LTE and VoLTE on top of it for calls.
          They then required phones they sell that had band 12 to support VoLTE so that the majority of their customers get a better signal indoors and in rural places data, texts and calls.
          Which is the #1 thing most T-mobile customers want.

          Delaying the voice and coverage improvements to protect the feelings of the small minority of customers using unlocked devices makes absolutely zero business sense, especially considering that unlocked devices will catch up eventually. Until then, do your research when buying an unlocked phone and make sure that if it says it supports band 12 it will work on T-mobile VoLTE or just buy a carrier phone and keep it simple.

        • Will

          It’s not about the feelings of a minority of people. It is about T-Mobile not wanting to leave themselves open to lawsuits if someone with a Band 12 phone cannot make a call.

          This is purely a legal defense on T-Mobile’s part.

        • Aaron C

          I see your point, but they really should stop with the “bring your own phone” stuff then, and why is it they will not offer an inexpensive pure android phone as a T-Mobile device? They offer the Nexus 6, so why not? I had to mail back my three new Moto G’s, and now they’re going to end up with Galaxy Grand Primes.

    • John Wentworth

      Band 12 significantly increases the network’s reach in many places.
      So in many places that get coverage due to band 12, you may not have HSPA to fall back to as AWS and 1900Mhz doesn’t propagate as far.
      Depending on the coverage were you live band 12 may or may not make a big difference in your coverage, In NJ it’s very good for instance, so I don’t notice it as much myself.

      • Fabian Cortez

        And/or the many areas where T-Mobils will be expanding using Band 12 only.

  • Adam

    From: FCC ADOPTS WIRELESS 911 RULES
    “If the handset fails to receive a signal, the handset would attempt to complete the call
    via the non-preferred carrier and would continue to rescan and reattempt the call until it is
    completed, the user terminates the call, or the handset loses power.”
    It sounds like it is very unlikely a 911 call will not go through. If a handset can only receive band 12, it should force roaming.

    • Diego Anza

      But that’s not what happens in real life with the devices that are being talked about. The calls just fail and the devices stay latched onto a strong signal from their home carrier. That’s why the only easy way to fix it is to disable band 12 altogether.

      • Or, you know, push a software patch to say that Band 12 doesn’t count when making this decision.

    • Aaron C

      Exactly. For an emergency call anyway. I don’t think 911 is the issue. I think the issue is T-Mobile doesn’t want to field calls from folks trying to make regular calls in band 12 areas that don’t have the HSPA fallback.

  • Logan S

    What about leaving it to customers to disable band 12 on their own?

    Inform customers and let them make their choice. Slap a big warning sticker on the phone: “YOU MAY EXPERIENCE 911 AND VOICE CALL ISSUES ON T-MOBILE WHEN LTE BAND 12 IS ENABLED. SEE USER”S MANUAL.”

    We get this kind of warning on soaps and coffee cups, why can’t they just do that on the phones, similar to those “NO TEXT AND DRIVING” stickers?

    Yes, there are idiots out there as always. But removing a desired feature is not the answer here.

    • El_Chuletas

      No offense, but readers are stupid. They would just looks at the tag like Hu?

      • Logan S

        Didn’t I say they are always idiots are there??

    • JaredTheGeek

      Its a legal issue.

  • This better not be an issue by the time October 19 comes. The Microsoft Lumia 940 and 940 XL will be factory unlocked, just like the IPhones, and we need reassurances that the high-end Lumias will be certified by T-Mobile for use on their network. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll look elsewhere for service.

  • Aaron C

    It is this very reason why I mailed back my three new Moto G’s to Motorola, since Motorola changed the spec on the phones AFTER I had ordered them. What a shame. Great phones, my family members would have loved them.

  • Will

    Hey here is a solution: if you own an unlocked device, T-Mobile will trade that device for one that is certified and has band 12 with VoLTE. Or maybe T-Mobile could bring back device subsidies to make it cheaper so that customers prefer to buy devices from T-Mobile.

    • kbiel

      What is a device subsidy? T-Mobile’s (and now every other carrier’s) move to payment plans was just exposing the lie of subsidized devices. Did an AT&T or Verizon monthly rate ever go down after a 2 year contract was fulfilled and the consumer kept using the “subsidized” device? No. Did the carriers ever lose money on their 2 year contracts to attract people with “subsidized” devices? No, if they had why would they ever allow anyone to sign a new contract with a new “subsidized” device if it was a money loser.

      • Will

        I am saying that they should subsidize the full price of the phone as a new uncannier move to get people to buy T-Mobile branded versions of phones. How about a $350 S6? Kind of makes it less likely people would buy unlocked devices like the OnePlus 2 and eliminates the problem.

    • Aaron C

      We were offered Galaxy Grand Primes for free (well, basically a credit for 24 months on the EIP). I’m moderately OK with that, but would MUCH have preferred a pure Android option, since my family members are currently on Moto G 1st gens and I don’t want them to have to deal with TouchWiz.

  • And there’s one less band 12 T-Mobile phone now. The company discontinued the Lumia 640 after just 72 days.

    • Fabian Cortez

      It’s clear that this is going on now because a lot of the areas that they’re expanding into are with Band 12 only. Northern Michigan is a prime example.

  • Mr.S

    In case of Moto G, this is really a Motorola’s issue. They had a choice to (a) implement VoLTE or (b) pull band 12 support. They chose latter for (seems like) cost reasons. I was about to buy 3 devices for my family and I didn’t because of that. And I emailed their support to tell them that I really like their phones but I wouldn’t be buying them because of how they handled the issue.
    They had added VoLTE to Nexus 6 via a software update, so the possibility is there, they just need to listen to their customers and implement VoLTE + Band 12 for 2015 Moto G phones.
    BTW, Motorola is owned by Lenovo now.

    • kbiel

      Yeah, I wonder what the hold up is for Motorola. VoLTE (and Wifi calling) would not be on the Nexus 6 if it wasn’t baked into Android. Is it that they just aren’t ready to go to 5.1.1 because they haven’t finished their interface overlay?

      • Aaron C

        I am thinking Google wanted to make sure the Nexus 6 got it, so they could use it with Project Fi. Since Google owned them when the Nexus 6 was under way,…

    • Aaron C

      Exact same thing here, but I actually bought three of them (one for the wife, two for in-laws, all of whom had the 1st gen Moto G and loved it). Then a day before they arrived, I was told band 12 had been removed. I was hoping to future-proof everyone with a solid pure Android phone at a sub-$200 price tag. It was going to be GLORIOUS…. And now?… ugh…