Category Archives: T-Mobile

New Samsung SM-G360T phone

My trusty Samsung SGH-T399 phone began to flake out last week. First it insisted that a number of apps needed to be reinstalled, then some apps lost their data. These sound like memory failures. Within a few days, the phone refused to re-start.

samsung galaxy core prime
Samsung SM-G360T

I replaced it with a low-cost Samsung SM-G360T, for $140 from the local T-mobile store. T-mobile calls it a GALAXY CORE Prime™. It’s small (4.5 inch screen), includes LTE, a quad core CPU, 8 GB of memory, 5 megapixel camera, replaceable battery, and a slot for a micro SD card up to 200GB. To keep costs low, Samsung seems to have deleted the magnetic sensor, the automatic screen illumination control, and lighted “back” buttons. I can live without these niceties.

The phone includes Android 5.1.1, which in most respects is an improvement over my old SGH-T399’s Android 4.

I notice on T-Mobile’s website that they’re now discounting this phone for $99. I recommend it, if your needs are similar to mine.  At that price, I may buy a second SM-G360T, as a backup phone.

T-mobile updated my SGH-T399 phone

(Originally published December 9, 2015) Last week,  without warning,  my Samsung SGH-T399 Galaxy Light phone from T-mobile began to download and update its system software to version T399UVUAOH2. Stagefright Detector now reports that my phone is no longer vulnerable to the Stagefright virus.

My phone’s About screen reports that its Android operating system remains at version 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), but its kernel is now dated August 25, 2015 (Korean standard time).

t-mobile stagefright 480w

  • Tip: If your Android phone is vulnerable to the Stagefright virus, you can reduce (but not eliminate) its vulnerability by, within the Messaging app, turning off the Auto retrieve setting. The Stagefright virus arrives within an SMS (short message service) multimedia message, so if your phone is vulnerable, you do not want to download these messages.

Update, February 27, 2016: T-Mobile again updated my T-399 phone. It still reports Android version 4.2.2, but now reports baseband version T399UVUAPA1 and is dated January 4th, 2016, 20:32, Korean Standard Time. According to T-Mobile’s note that accompanied the update, it improves voice over LTE (VoLTE) and unspecified security features.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

 

 

T-Mobile’s “Binge On”

With the recent introduction of its Binge On service, T-Mobile US is again mangling the English language. Binge On provides preferential treatment of packets  “from Netflix and Hulu (which are T-Mobile partners) but not YouTube (which isn’t) without having those streams count against their data plans.” (Wired article, T-Mobile Confirms It Slows Connections to Video Sites, 7 Jan 2016).  Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that if you have the Binge On “service”, T-Mobile will throttle data from YouTube et al to 1.5 Mbps. Some “service”!

Surprise: Binge On is switched on by default

If, like me, you have a legacy “Simple Choice Plan: Unlimited Talk + Text”, you may be surprised to learn that by default your account now includes the Binge On “service”. (Thank you T-Mobile, I prefer that you not throttle my YouTube videos.)  As far as I can see, Binge On provides no advantage for users with truly unlimited data plans. In fact, it slows down their YouTube viewing. Here’s how to turn Binge On off:

  • Log in to your T-Mobile account
  • Click on Profile (upper right hand corner)
  • Click on Media Settings
  • Click on Binge On to turn it off (as illustrated below):

t-mobile binge on 1184w

I mistakenly thought that T-Mobile’s legacy plans were immune from encroachment by throttling. I was wrong. Apparently the FCC wishes to chat with T-Mobile about its latest twisting of words’ meanings: T-Mobile’s Binge On: When throttling may not break the rules, Arstechnica, 7 January 2016.

Is Binge On legal?  According to the EFF,

. . . throttling all traffic based on application type definitely violates the principles of net neutrality. It also obviously violates the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which says that ISPs

“…shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service…subject to reasonable network management”

Cel-Fi LTE signal booster

T-mobile works fine for me, except in my house. I think that the nearest T-mobile cell site is about a half-mile away, but the signal path is filled with old growth (signal absorbent) trees. I can’t use my cell phone on the ground floor, and it’s usable in only a few spots on the second floor.

Neither T-mobile’s tech support people nor its store personnel have helped. I read that T-mobile is now providing “signal boosters” to customers with weak signals in their homes. Apparently AT&T and other carriers offer similar systems.

CelFi LTE booster from T-mobileOn Friday, I fetched a new T-mobile “Personal CellSpot 4G LTE Signal Booster” from the T-mobile store, after paying a $25 deposit.

My booster is the “Cel-Fi” model RS3 or DUO, manufactured by San Diego-based Nextivity. It consists of two small boxes — the window unit and the coverage unit — and their wall wart power supplies. The window unit receives T-mobile’s LTE or HSPA signal (presumably at 1700 MHz), demodulates it, and transports the data via a 5 GHz unlicensed UNI link to the coverage unit. I placed the window unit on the second floor and the coverage unit on the ground floor.

cel-fi system schematic in house

What is its theory of operation?

Apparently the system is essentially a repeater. I have no idea how completely it demodulates the tower’s signal before creating the in-house signal. Is the in-house signal that’s transmitted by the coverage unit on the same frequency as the tower’s signal that’s received by the window unit? I don’t know, but I doubt it. Nextivity merely states that the coverage unit “cleans up” (whatever that means) the signal. Neither unit has any user interface other than some front panel LEDs.

Does it work?

Placement of both units is critical. I needed about an hour to get the system working throughout my house. Without field strength measurement instruments, I relied upon the limited information that’s provided by the units’ front panel LEDs. It works.

I’ve found almost no technical information about this system except a bit in a thread on Howardforums and a press release regarding Nextivity’s use of 1/4 and 1/2 Watt output power amplifiers in this product. If you have technical information — especially antenna radiation patterns — on this product, please let us know.

What if it quits working?

Occasionally (maybe once a week) the received signal from the Coverage Unit drops to one bar and/or my phone reverts to a slow EDGE connection. I’ve found that resetting the Cel-Fi system restores signal strength and LTE speeds at my phone. Follow these steps, in sequence:

  1. Remove power to the Coverage Unit
  2. Remove power to the Window Unit
  3. Wait 30 seconds
  4. Restore power to the Window Unit
  5. Restore power to the Coverage Unit
  6. Wait a few minutes while the two units establish a good wireless link and the Coverage Unit adjusts its output level

You should eventually see a full 5 bars received signal strength at the phone.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Restore Android contacts

I drowned my three month old Samsung SGH-T399 Galaxy Light phone. It slipped into my bath water as I was using it in the tub. I quickly rescued it, yanked out its battery, SIM card, and SD card, and tucked it into a nice dry bed of uncooked white rice for the night. In the morning it started normally, but its display flickered and failed after warming up.

Import contacts.vcf screenshotI purchased a replacement SGH-T399 phone and installed my favorite apps on it. My Google Mail contacts were restored,  but the remaining contacts were not restored. By moving quickly,  I was able to go to the Contacts app on the old phone and export them to a contacts.vcf file. Then I used a USB cable to make the old phone a slave to a Windows 7 PC host. I copied the contacts.vcf file to the host PC’s store. (The contacts.vcf file is located in the phone’s /storage/emulated/0/ folder.)

Then I removed the old phone from the USB cable, and replaced it with the new phone. Next I copied the contacts.vcf file from the PC’s store to the /storage/emulated/0/ folder on the new phone,  ran its Contacts app, and imported contacts.vcf. Done!

My new phone now has the contacts from my old phone. Both phones run Android 4.2.2.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Liberate storage on Samsung SGH-T399 phone

I discovered a method of freeing storage space on my Samsung SGH-T399 Android phone. Podcasts had stopped streaming, probably because the phone had run out of free storage space for caching. How could I create free storage space? I learned that the hidden /mnt/sdcard/.face folder had grown to 2.65 gigabytes and contained 67,000 files(!). I gambled that the facial recognition files contained there were nonessential.

I deleted the /mnt/sdcard/.face folder, then created a new empty /mnt/sdcard/.face folder. Suddenly the phone had 2.65 GB of free storage. Yesssss!

I used a terrific Android app, ES File Explorer, to discover this bloated folder, delete it, and create a new empty one. Its SD Card Analyst tool displays folders sorted in descending order by size. The .face folder was at the top of the list.

Note that the folder named sdcard isn’t actually the physical sdcard. For some reason, Samsung’s Android file system calls this phone’s internal storage folder /mnt/sdcard. The physical sdcard is named /mnt/extSdCard.

screenshot by xda-developers

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

T-Mobile pulled the plug on their contacts backup server

Here’s evidence that some communications companies do a poor job of communicating not only with their customers, but internally, as well.

t-mobile contacts backup screenLast Friday, my trusty old Samsung SGH-T679 Android (Gingerbread) smartphone died. I purchased a replacement SGH-T399 from the T-Mobile store, and the salesperson wrote my subscriber data to its micro-SIM card. I merely needed to install my favorite apps and restore my contacts from T-Mobile’s contacts synchronization server:

  1. Install apps? Check.
  2. Restore contacts? Negative. Why? In July, T-Mobile pulled the plug on their contacts synchronization server. It, and my contacts list, has been taken off-line.

After a little hunting, I found this message on T-Mobile’s website:

Contacts was a free service that allowed you to backup up to 5,000 contacts on a secure T-Mobile server. Contacts has now been retired.

If you stored contacts on your phone, don’t worry, they are still there and will remain on your phone. But what happens if you lose your phone and haven’t backed up your contacts? Without a backup, your contacts will be lost forever . . .

I tested the T-Mobile contacts backup (or synchronization) system last year. It worked fine. When I needed it last week, it didn’t work. I cannot imagine a reason why T-Mobile would think that closing down the contacts backup service was a good idea.

Rachel, T-Mobile’s helpful second-level support person, reported that T-Mobile’s management told employees that third party email providers such as Google provide contacts backup services, gratis. The problem is that Google’s terms of service grant Google carte blanche to your contacts (and everything else that you store with Google). They’re free to reveal all your contacts to anyone, including your competitors.

  • An incomplete restoration
    Rachel had a subset of my contacts in the form of a comma-delimited file (.CSV) sent to me. It was very out of date — maybe a year old — and contained first name, last name, and phone number only. Email address, notes, company, etc. were missing. I imported this file into a spreadsheet, edited it, and imported the edited CSV file into my contacts.

I’m surprised that Rachel and her colleagues at T-mobile didn’t object when management proposed this dumb idea. Customers seem not to have been asked their opinions. It sounds like at T-Mobile, all communication is one way: from the top down.

This dumb move by T-mobile has annoyed other customers. My guess is that it’s a breach of my contract with them.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

OpenSignal app for Android

About a year ago, I wrote an article about my attempts to locate T-mobile’s nearby cell sites. I’m still having difficulty.image I’ve tried several Android apps that measure signal field strength, with varying success. I’ve had the best results with OpenSignal 2.0 (available free from the Android Play Store). This YouTube video is a good introduction to the app.

OpenSignal seems to do a good job of measuring signal strength and data transmission speed. However, its estimates of cell sites’ locations aren’t at all accurate. I think that it relies upon its own database of cell sites’ geographical coordinates — and these data are inaccurate. It’s frustrating, because everything else about OpenSignal works nicely.

Most of OpenSignal’s many features work well. It has the polished feel of a good commercial app. I gather that OpenSignal regularly updates their cell sites location database, so there’s hope. In the meantime, I give it four out of five stars.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

I nearly melted down my phone

While listening to a podcast on my Samsung mobile phone via the Tunein app, a pop-up announced, “Charging paused. Battery temperature too low or too high.” The pop-up remained on screen until I unplugged the charger. The battery had only about a 6% charge, so as soon as I unplugged the charger, another pop-up warned that the battery needed to be charged. Catch 22. Room temperature was probably about 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

imageI grabbed a cold pack from the freezer and rested the phone on its icy carcass. The over-temperature warnings ceased while I simultaneously listened to the podcast and charged the phone’s battery.

Decades ago, I helped develop military radio communication hardware. The products needed to pass environmental tests for vibration, shock, high and low ambient temperatures, and humidity — while under continuous full-load conditions. We invested many hours in heat management.

My mobile phone is clearly incapable of passing such tests. It’s intended for intermittent use — what’s known as low duty cycle usage. I’d guess that my phone can handle about a 10 to 15 percent duty cycle at full output.

This is probably as good as we can expect from consumer-grade products. We just need to have frigid cold packs ready if we want more.

My phone: Samsung SGH-T679. T-Mobile Insight II 4G.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A quick fix for Android net connect problems

Airplane Mode screenshotOccasionally my Samsung Insight II phone (SGH-T679 running Android Gingerbread 2.3.6) quits communicating via IP with Internet hosts. Often, a wireless connection to a T-Mobile tower exists but there’s just no IP communication. Also, occasionally my phone insists that it can only establish a (low speed, perhaps 50 kbps) EDGE wireless connection to the tower; it refuses to connect at higher speeds (such as UMTS, HSDPA, or LTE).

A simple fix — short of shutting down and restarting the phone or system troubleshooting — is to temporarily place the phone in Airplane Mode (which shuts down its wireless radio transceivers) and then turn off its Airplane Mode (which starts its wireless radio transceivers). Your phone should connect to the cell site with the strongest signal — which may be different than the site that it was connected to before. Nine times out of ten this works for me.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Samsung SGH-T679 not charging

Occasionally, for no apparent reason, my Android phone refuses to accept a battery charge. (originally published 15 February 2014)

Samsung Exhibit II SGH-T679 phoneHere’s the only way I’ve found to fix this problem on my Samsung Insight II SGH-T679 with Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread phone:

  1. Remove charger
  2. Turn off phone
  3. Remove battery
  4. Remove SIM card
  5. Remove SD card
  6. Wait at least 3 minutes. (I’ve had to wait as long as 60 minutes.)
  7. Replace SD card
  8. Replace SIM card
  9. Replace battery
  10. Turn on phone
  11. Plug in charger

This reset procedure works for me. It may or may not work for you. (8 Oct 2014) It also works for my new SGH-T399 phone.


Update

7 August 2014Samsung charger This may or may not be a coincidence, but I’ve found that since abandoning third-party battery chargers and returning to a Samsung manufactured charger, my phone’s battery behaves better, without loss of charging function.

I’ve also stopped buying third-party batteries. They’ve been short-lived. I found what seems to be a genuine Samsung battery on Amazon. The combination of genuine Samsung battery and Samsung battery charger seems to provide both longer battery discharge times and better charging behavior.

I’ve not needed to resort to the charging system reset procedure since installing the genuine Samsung battery and using the genuine Samsung charger.

Extra credit article: How to prolong lithium based batteries

Also see: Repair and prevent battery charging problems on GSM phones.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

CTIA’s stolen cellphone blacklist

A stolen smartphone can fetch $200 to $300, so smartphone theft remains a problem. CTIA’s website includes tips on how to deter smartphone thefts.

CTIA logoThe CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) announced in November that it had integrated its stolen cellphone database with similar international databases. A recent Verge article describes the importance of the overseas stolen cellphone market and the controversy that surrounds a built-in “kill switch” for smartphones.

The CTIA insists that its new improved cellphone blacklist will make “kill switches” unnecessary. We’ll see what happens to the market value of stolen phones.

FCC’s Mobile Speed Test

The FCC has released a test version of a cellular data transfer speed measurement app for Android devices. It’s available from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.samknows.fcc.

fcc-test-resultsThe FCC has published the Android app’s open source code on its Github site. They’ve promised an iPhone version. It’s being developed by Samknows.com.

According to the app’s FAQ, “the application will run continuously in the background, periodically performing measurements.” I’m not enthused about having this app running continuously. I’ll probably uninstall it after each measurement run.

A feature of this app that I like is that it collects and reports “cell tower ID” and “cell tower location code” — data that may help my quest to pinpoint the physical location of T-Mobile’s nearest cell site. It also reports received signal strength in dBm.

The speed test data are collected from your mobile device and aggregated by the FCC. Let’s hope that they use the data to hold the carriers’ feet to the fire.

One reported problem is that the app, when testing over a WiFi connection, thinks that it’s connected via LTE. Also, it may have contributed to problems I had with other apps today.

4G??

If you examine the screenshot, you’ll see that although T-Mobile claims that the wireless connection (which was HSDPA when I snapped the screenshot) is “4G”, the download speed is a wimpy 1 Megabit per second. This disproves T-Mobile’s claim that HSDPA+ is “4G”. (The ITU specifies that 4G system mobile phones have a minimum peak download speed of 100 Mbps.) Maybe the FCC or FTC will do their jobs and slap T-Mobile for false advertising.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Tech support

Today my T-Mobile Android phone suddenly stopped communicating with the Internet. I quickly ran through the usual troubleshooting steps. One step is to check IP connectivity by pinging an IP address on the Internet. I had no IP connectivity, but did have a decent RF HSDPA connection to a nearby cell site. These results suggested that T-Mobile’s backhaul link to their local cell site was broken.

android-pingI phoned T-Mobile customer hinderance assistance. Then I went through two tech support people who had no knowledge of the IP ping command. I asked to be transferred to someone who was familiar with ping. That person introduced herself as a member of T-Mobile’s highest tech support level. She didn’t know the ping command either but told me that she had been through the T-Mobile tech support training. She told me that that was six years ago.

This is normal. Tech support people who don’t understand the vocabulary of their trade is the rule — not the exception.

If you held a tech support position, wouldn’t you want to learn as much as possible about the technology? Why doesn’t T-Mobile require that its tech support staff know basic network vocabulary?

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Where are T-Mobile’s cell sites?

T-Mobile’s GSM signal inside my house is marginal. My Android phone indicates field strengths from about -100 dBm to -113 dBm. (I *think* that GSM needs a minimum field strength of about -109 dBm.) I have a vague idea where T-Mobile’s nearest cell site is located, but I’m having difficulty pinpointing it.

I’ve found conflicting information from these sources:

Transmitting_tower_top_usLast week I stopped at the nearby T-Mobile store. To my surprise, none of their salespeople knew where the nearest T-Mobile cell site is located . . . nor were they interested. One guy has worked there since 1998, and never thought to learn the nearest cell site location. I’m amazed.

I spoke with a T-Mobile tech support person on the phone, who volunteered an approximate cell site location within a mile of my house. I walked in that residential neighborhood, and my phone indicated a signal strength of about -71 dBm — which would indicate that I was getting warm — but I was unable to visually identify a cellular antenna. There’s no tower, but there is a church nearby, and I’ve read that T-Mobile likes to place cell sites within church steeples. My guess is that this cell site is just a repeater, with no fiber backhaul.

If that’s the nearest cell site to my house, the signal’s path loss to my house is about 30 to 40 dB. That seems reasonable, as I *think* that T-Mobile operates in the 1700 and 1900 MHz bands and there are lots of mature trees in the path to my house.

Can you recommend a method of determining exactly where the nearest T-Mobile cell site to my house is located? Please?

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

I killed my Smartphone’s battery

I’ve had my Samsung SGH-T679 Insight II phone for about 13 months. It’s small, as is its battery. Battery runtime has never been great, but recently it’s been terrible. Last week, the phone turned itself off several times, and it refused to recharge today.

An expanded worn-out Lithium-ion battery and new one (upper-left)
An expanded worn-out Lithium-ion battery and new one (upper-left)

Jenson at the T-Mobile store tested my charger and pronounced it healthy. Kristen at the Batteries Plus store took one look at the battery, whose sides were slightly bulging, and pronounced it dead. She told me that a quick test is to place the battery on its flat side on a tabletop and spin it. If it spins easily, it’s bulging. Bulging sides = Dead battery.

I confess that I’ve left my phone on the charger for hours overnight, long after the battery was fully charged. I’ve also recharged it whenever it fell below 80 percent charge. Kristen explained that although the phone is supposed to have current limiting circuitry, it isn’t perfect. It’s much better to unplug the charger once the battery is fully charged, and to allow the battery to discharge to 20 percent or so before recharging it. I’ll follow her recommendations with my new battery.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

My phone nearly drowned.

Samsung Insight II SGH-T679 in rubber caseThis is embarassing. While changing clothes in a bathroom, I accidentally pulled my phone (Samsung SGH-T679 Insight II 4G from T-Mobile) by its earbud wires off the countertop and straight into the toilet. D’oh! It sank straight to the bottom. I quickly retrieved it, peeled off its rubber case, popped off its back, and removed its battery. The phone was powered on when it fell, and its USB connector sliding door was open.

The phone was submerged for only a few seconds, and I saw few or no water droplets on the battery, but as I dried off the phone with a towel, I feared the worst. I removed the SIM card and placed the phone in a bowl of uncooked white rice (a dessicant) for about four hours.

The phone booted up and ran fine. I think that the rubber case retarded the ingress of water. My case covers the switches, which otherwise would have leaked water. Whew!

I’ve read that the most common cause of cell phone failure is water immersion. This time I was lucky.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Repair and prevent battery charging problems on GSM phones.

About two weeks ago, my Samsung Exhibit II SGH-T679 Android phone refused to charge its battery. I tried a variety of chargers and eventually it reluctantly slowly recharged its battery. The local T-Mobile store clerk concluded that the phone had died and ordered a warranty replacement phone. In the meantime, my phone has resumed recharging normally.

Exhibit II micro-USB port. Click to enlarge.Yesterday I mentioned this to Jason Athanas at Autobahn Performance, who told me that the micro-USB connector fills up with lint that prevents contact with the charger’s connector. He carefully inspected and cleaned my connector under a very bright light. Only then did I recall that my phone has a tiny sliding door that can seal its micro-USB connector when empty. Ah-ha! So THAT’s why that door is there! From now on, I’ll remember to close that door after I’m done charging the phone.

All GSM phone manufacturers (except Apple) agreed to use the micro-USB connector for battery charging in 2009 (GSM phones will have a standard battery charger), and I’ll bet that most of them include a similar sliding door. I’ve learned that it’s there for a reason.

  • Update, December 2015: YouTuber Mysimplefix has posted a simple way to clean your phone’s micro-USB battery charging port. It works. I used a thin piece of disposable plastic water Evian water bottle and cut it to a shape and size that resembles a man’s color stay:

T-Mobile’s VoIP 9-1-1 Strategy

Yesterday, my T-Mobile home page included a link to their page titled Wi-Fi Calling and 9-1-1 Address. This describes their method of providing 911 caller geo-location information when using a T-Mobile phone that’s connected via a Wi-Fi access point. [“Wi-Fi Calling” is their tradename for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).]

Like their cellular phone 9-1-1 location strategy, it doesn’t rely on the caller phone’s GPS receiver. Also like their cellular geo-location strategy, it tries the most precise method first, and falls back to progressively less precise methods. I guess that the other U.S. cellular companies employ a similar VoIP 9-1-1 strategy.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Mobile phone E-911 deployment

On their mobile homepage, T-Mobile recently linked to T-Mobile’s 911 geolocation commitment document. Locating landline phones during a 911 call is easy: each landline phone number is associated with a geographic location, so the 911 operator can quickly dispatch help to the correct location.

Landline or not, you should ensure that the correct location is associated with your phone number. Check with your phone service provider. Most provide a private webpage with street address form that’s accessible from your account. Having the correct location on file could save your life.

Click to enlarge

9-1-1 System (click to enlarge) · illustration by Evan Mason

Mobile phones complicate this system, because they’re, well, mobile. Enhanced 9-1-1 Phase I service identifies the caller’s cell-site and sector, which provides a general location to the 911 operator. Enhanced 9-1-1 Phase II service provides more precise location information to the 911 operator. T-Mobile explains,

Since early 2004, T-Mobile has been deploying a network-based Phase II solution. . . T-Mobile’s solution is referred to as U-TDOA, Uplink-Time Difference of Arrival. U-TDOA does not require customers to purchase a new handset. [It also does not require that the phone contain a GPS receiver and is accurate to within about 150 feet. -RB].

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phones, because of their mobility, present similar geo-location obstacles during a 911 call.


Next Generation 9-1-1

The next generation 9-1-1 system (NG9-1-1) will allow “calls” to be initiated by any Internet-connected device. Calls for help may contain text, pictures, or video. Crashed vehicles will initiate “calls” and send crash data to 9-1-1 centers [also known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs)] without human intervention.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Now, THIS is poor customer service by T-Mobile.

Reader Sue, in a comment yesterday, pointed me to a story headlined Customer stabbed inside T-Mobile store. It warrants its own post.

The gist: A 59-year old T-Mobile customer enters a Philadelphia area T-Mobile store to inquire about apparent double-billing, an argument with a store clerk ensues, and he’s stabbed in the left side by the clerk. The victim/customer is admitted to the hospital where he undergoes emergency surgery. The 21-year old assailant/store clerk has split.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

T-Mobile’s Deceptive Vocabulary

My Samsung Insight II phone includes firmware by T-Mobile. When near an up-to-date cell site, the little icon to the left of the signal strength indicator proudly displays 4G. T-Mobile Android desktop with 4G icon While I remain in the same location, when I check the phone status within the Settings app, Mobile Network Type is either UMTS or HSDPA.

Neither UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) nor HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) is considered to be 4G (Fourth Generation), yet T-Mobile calls them 4G. UMTS and HSFPA are 3G technologies that enhance GSM. They’re pretty fast (I measure 3 Mbps download speed), but they ain’t 4G (potentially up to 50 Mbps).

Once again, T-Mobile has attempted to change the definitions of words. See recent article T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Plus” data plan.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Let’s see how THIS data plan works.

I just learned that in September, T-Mobile created a new data plan called “Unlimited Nationwide 4G”. This time it may indeed be unlimited. It is not true 4G. Supposedly it has no cap. Reports are that T-Mobile was hemorrhaging customers: they lost over 200,000 customers last quarter. T-Mobile hopes that this new data plan gives them a competitive advantage over AT&T and Verizon, who no longer offer unlimited data plans.

I’ve replaced my Unlimited Plus data plan ($10 per month) with an Unlimited Nationwide 4G data plan ($20 per month). Download speed measures 3 Mbps. So far, so good.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Plus” data plan

Maybe T-Mobile is exempt from truth in advertising laws. Maybe they’ve quit speaking English and converted to Newspeak. I wonder because T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Plus” data plan is not unlimited. For the first 2 gigabytes he receives each month, the subscriber can access the Internet at 4G speed (about 3 Mbps measured download speed); then the connection speed drops to about 50 kbps. It’s throttled. It’s capped. It’s pathetic. It’s not unlimited.

This is another case in which our bloated government has failed its citizens. Doesn’t this false advertising violate an FCC rule? Where’s the The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), whose “principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anti-competitive business practices”? Answer: asleep at the switch.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Check your Android’s Internet connection

Use Unix / Linux commands to check your Android’s Internet connection.

If your Android web browser can’t display your favorite sites, the device may have lost its IP connection to the Internet. You can check this by using three simple Linux commands. (Android is built upon a Linux foundation.) This requires five steps:

  1. Install the Terminal Emulator app. (You’ll find Terminal Emulator within the Google Play Store on your Android desktop.)
  2. Run Terminal Emulator. Enter the command netcfg (and press Enter). Your current IP address will be displayed in the third column for one of the devices in the first column. On my phone, the Internet interface device is pdp0 (the bottom line in the first screenshot). The fourth column displays your subnet mask.

    IP address check
    Netcfg command
  3. The command netstat -rn will display each active communication session: protocol, bytes in transmit and receive queues, your IP address, a colon followed by the active port, and the IP address and active port of the host with which you’re communicating.
  4. Again, run Terminal Emulator. Type the command ping 8.8.8.8 (and press Enter). Internet node 8.8.8.8 (which is a Google DNS server) should reply. TTL is Time To Live — the number of hops remaining in the packet. Time is the number of milliseconds required for a packet to traverse the route to and from 8.8.8.8. If you’re not connected, you’ll see a message such as Network is unreachable.

    Ping test
    Ping test
  5. Finally, let’s make certain that you have DNS (Domain Name Service). Run Terminal Emulator once more. Type the command ping www.amazon.com (and press Enter). If your DNS worked and you have IP connection, Amazon’s server will reply.

This works on my stock T-Mobile Samsung SGH-T679 phone running Android 2.3.6. I have not rooted it, yet. There may be better ways to check Internet connectivity on Android devices. I’m new to Android and still a novice, though I first installed Linux circa 1993. If you know of a better method, please advise me. I wrote this article on my Android phone; it was a struggle, especially when trying to copy and paste. Any text editing suggestions?


Stop pinging!
On my phone, I can abort the pings and return to the command prompt by simultaneously pressing the Volume Down button (on the left edge of the phone) while pressing the Z key on the keyboard. This simulates a Ctrl-Z key sequence from a full-size keyboard.

Restore your last command
To restore your previous command to the command line, press the Volume Down button (on the left edge of the phone) while pressing the P key on the keyboard. This simulates a Ctrl-P key sequence from a full-size keyboard. You can backspace to edit the command. Press Enter to execute the command.


Can’t connect to your mobile phone carrier?
You first need to connect to your carrier’s nearest cell site. Here’s how: Re-connect Android to the Internet

Having trouble reaching one or more hosts?
Use Android’s traceroute command to discover where your packets stop enroute to their destination.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695