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Thread: Seeking MVNO/Carrier options since 3G Network Shutdown

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    Question Seeking MVNO/Carrier options since 3G Network Shutdown

    Hey Everyone!

    Currently have two phones that are on two different networks, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 on AT&T Prepaid and Samsung Galaxy S8+(EXYNOS) that is on T-Mobile Prepaid.

    Already got the call from AT&T due to the 3G shutdown, stating that the Xiaomi Redmi phone will not work on their network beyond February 2022 due to it not being whitelisted, not sure if any Xiaomi phones would work. I haven't received any hard cut off notification from T-Mobile on the Samsung phone that I'm currently using, although it is capable of VoLTE, just not sure if it'll be compliant with T-Mobile's network.

    I was wondering if there were any MVNOs/Carriers that I could switch to instead of having to buy new phones and keep using my current phones. Just trying to see if there were any suggestions from the community that I could pursue. Appreciate any suggestions.

    Thank You

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    Lots of MVNO's have to follow the main carrier. I know this happening with Verizon based MVNO's and AT&T based MVNO's.

    As for T-Mobile side, T-Mobile finally has this page: https://www.t-mobile.com/support/cov...work-evolution

    The issue is they do not say much on what phones could be affected the most, but for the old Sprint phones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by advcomp2019 View Post
    Lots of MVNO's have to follow the main carrier. I know this happening with Verizon based MVNO's and AT&T based MVNO's.

    As for T-Mobile side, T-Mobile finally has this page: https://www.t-mobile.com/support/cov...work-evolution

    The issue is they do not say much on what phones could be affected the most, but for the old Sprint phones.
    Thanks for providing the T-Mobile page, I guess their cut off date sounds like July 1st, 2022 so will probably will hear more on black/white listed phones as it gets closer to that date.

    So for the time being, it sounds like I need to replace my phone with something that is on the whitelisted compatible phones list.

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    i am no authority to say this for sure but i suspect phones that are currently getting VoLTE and working properly will continue to work but if the IMEI's are not 'whitelisted' they may not be accepted for activation and you are likely to continue to get texts saying you need to replace them. this is the carriers protecting themselves by saying 'we warned you'

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    Quote Originally Posted by robbyrobby View Post
    i am no authority to say this for sure but i suspect phones that are currently getting VoLTE and working properly will continue to work but if the IMEI's are not 'whitelisted' they may not be accepted for activation and you are likely to continue to get texts saying you need to replace them. this is the carriers protecting themselves by saying 'we warned you'
    Sadly, att uses a hard whitelist - unlike T-Mobile and Verizon.

    That being said - and from what I've been hearing - any account on att network (including mvnos) using a non-whitelisted device is subject to service suspension and/or complete account closure. (Where they cancel your account entirely and reclaim your phone number.)

    However, since T-Mobile doesn't whitelist, any "compatible" volte device will continue working after the 3g sunset on TMobile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    That being said - and from what I've been hearing - any account on att network (including mvnos) using a non-whitelisted device is subject to service suspension and/or complete account closure. (Where they cancel your account entirely and reclaim your phone number.)
    Whoa, wait...hold the phone a sec.

    Service suspension until you move the SIM to a whitelisted phone and contact them (in the case of AT&T), yes. You're correct there. That is already happening, even...well before the February drop-dead date.

    But I have not heard any of these companies talk about "complete account closure" and "reclaim[ing] your phone number". I don't believe this is happening, and I highly doubt that it will happen. As long as they are continuing to bill you and you are paying those bills, they aren't going to close the account and rip your phone number out of your hands, regardless of whether the network is actively preventing your phone from connecting to it on account of not being whitelisted. Service suspension does not equal account closure.

    With regard to the MVNO situation, even that is currently a big unknown. At this point we all merely assume that AT&T whitelists will be enforced on AT&T MVNOs, but to-date that doesn't seem to be happening, despite the fact that AT&T is being extremely aggressive about this with their DIRECT customers. AT&T prepaid and postpaid users and Cricket users are all getting service suspensions when they put their SIMs into non-whitelisted devices, but this hasn't been happening to AT&T MVNO accounts! (Tracfone & Co. may be an exception, but however they're handling it, it appears to be TF making the call, not AT&T.) For whatever reason, AT&T has given their MVNOs some wiggle-room with respect to this, but both the MVNOs and AT&T have been completely mum both about why and whether this will continue to be the case.

    If I missed something, though, happy to be corrected.

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    I have a factory unlocked Moto G6 Play. It is not AT&T whitelisted. A Tracfone BYOP AT&T sim yields only 4g-3G. No VoLTE. I do not want to switch to Tracfone Verizon because it is too much risk of fubar when transferring accumulated airtime at Tracfone. Plus, I tried Tracfone Verizon and texts/mms took forever to show up. I put the AT&T sim into a newer phone and got VoLTE. So the whitelist means business. There was no warning about the old phone or anything. I guess it would just keep working until 3G cuts off. So some people are going to get a surprise.

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    I guess I will have to wait a bit before making any changes since things seem to be a bit unclear currently. For the immediate sense, if there's a MVNO or Carrier I can make the switch to immediately that would be the first move. If not then I would just to update my phones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheikhoz View Post
    I guess I will have to wait a bit before making any changes since things seem to be a bit unclear currently. For the immediate sense, if there's a MVNO or Carrier I can make the switch to immediately that would be the first move. If not then I would just to update my phones.
    I think you're out of luck on the Redmi Note 5 -- from what I can tell, that device only has a handful of international LTE bands, other than Band 41. So while it's possible that will work in some areas on T-Mobile once they refarm Band 41 from Sprint to T-Mobile, I'd be VERY hesitant to rely on a single band, especially if not one of the main nationwide bands. So unless there is a version of this device with more US bands, it's not going to work well once 3G disappears from AT&T and T-Mobile's networks (you might get some GSM 2G on T-Mobile, but that will be shut down soon, and it's pretty useless for much of anything these days).


    On the Samsung, there's a good chance that device will still work on on T-Mobile for data, but you may not get VOLTE to work (unless it's working now). That device has a broad array of LTE bands, including many US bands. Since it's already active, you can try that now -- if LTE stays lit up during a call, usually that indicates that voice is using LTE (make sure Wi-Fi is off). The S8+ and later are supposed to auto-adapt to different carriers by inserting the SIM -- see this article for more info on how to check (note, this may not apply to your device with US carriers since I think it's the international version):
    https://www.samsung.com/us/support/answer/ANS00078492/

    The Samsung isn't on the AT&T whitelist, so it's not clear whether AT&T will block it from activating, despite it having lots of compatible bands.


    One of the issues the carriers are having is allowing devices on the network that can't dial 911, and they would get sued for the network not working. Going back 5 or so years, T-Mobile had Band 12 (their first low frequency LTE band so they could dramatically expand their coverage footprint) removed from the 2015 Motorola E series phone via software update because the phone couldn't handle VoLTE. The concern was someone could be in a Band 12-only area and would have a signal, but couldn't make an emergency call (since Band 12 was LTE only).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisme View Post
    I have a factory unlocked Moto G6 Play. It is not AT&T whitelisted. A Tracfone BYOP AT&T sim yields only 4g-3G. No VoLTE. I do not want to switch to Tracfone Verizon because it is too much risk of fubar when transferring accumulated airtime at Tracfone. Plus, I tried Tracfone Verizon and texts/mms took forever to show up. I put the AT&T sim into a newer phone and got VoLTE. So the whitelist means business. There was no warning about the old phone or anything. I guess it would just keep working until 3G cuts off. So some people are going to get a surprise.
    There are two ways that VoLTE can be "blocked" on a given device...sometimes only one method or the other is being utilized, and sometimes both are employed together:

    1) It can be blocked on the carrier's side. (Phone asks to make a VoLTE connection, network denies the request after checking the IMEI of the phone making the request.)

    2) It can be blocked on the handset side. (Phone checks the SIM against an internal carrier VoLTE whitelist built into the phone's software, and won't even bother to TRY to make a VoLTE connection if that SIM's carrier isn't in the list.)

    Carriers sometimes work (collude?) with handset manufacturers to make #2 happen, though it's also the default position of many handset manufacturers that if they don't explicitly get a particular handset model certified for VoLTE by a given carrier, they will just leave that carrier out of the internal whitelist built into the firmware.

    T-Mobile and Verizon don't really do #1, which is why you can occasionally run into phone models (ones that DON'T do #2) which manage to make a VoLTE connection on those networks just fine, even if that particular model technically isn't certified to work with VoLTE on their networks.

    AT&T on the other hand absolutely does do #1.

    Except that recently they have taken it even a step farther: they don't just deny a VoLTE connection on their network if the IMEI isn't in their whitelist, but they deny a network connection ALTOGETHER: the network won't let the phone on, period, even for internet data use.

    Now, here's the curious thing: AT&T only seems to be doing this to their *direct* customers. If, however, you are on an AT&T MVNO, they *haven't* (yet?) subjected those MVNO lines to the same treatment of blocking them from the network *completely*. Take your experience with Tracfone for example: even if you didn't get VoLTE, you still got 3G voice and either 3G or 4G data on your G6 Play. But if you had been on AT&T Prepaid or Postpaid, putting the SIM in the G6 Play would have caused your service to have been totally suspended, and the only way to get service back when that happens is to move the SIM back over to a whitelisted phone *and then call AT&T customer service to beg for forgiveness after that*. Moving the SIM back to a whitelisted phone is not enough.

    You didn't experience that on TF. I'm pretty sure nobody with an AT&T SIM is experiencing that on TF. As I said, the MVNOs are being handled differently for the time being.

    That said, whether or not a given AT&T MVNO even does #1 (lets the phone on the network but blocks non-whitelisted phones from making VoLTE calls) seems to vary from MVNO to MVNO! SOME AT&T MVNOs do this. Some do NOT.

    Tracfone (and its sister companies) DOES do this on the AT&T side, and they have been doing it for at LEAST a year, if not much longer. It may take them anywhere between several minutes and several days after you put the SIM into a non-whitelisted phone, but eventually they'll see the IMEI change and actively block VoLTE on the network side.

    On the other hand, I have been on both Boom Blue (R.I.P.) and more recently Red Pocket GSMA, and as far as I can tell, neither one of them ever implemented #1. I have had the RP SIM in a very much not-whitelisted phone for 2.5 months now with no problems related to whitelists, and not only that, but both VoLTE and WiFi Calling have worked just fine and continue to work fine for me in this phone with this SIM.

    So, again: it is just not universally true that all AT&T MVNOs are dealing with this the same way, and as far as I can tell, AT&T thus far (to my great surprise) has not implemented their whitelist enforcement as a top-down thing on the network side. MVNOs are exempt...for now. If an AT&T MVNO (like TF) decides that they want to enforce a whitelist, it seems at some level to be up to the MVNO to do it.

    But of course just because this is the state of things now is no guarantee that this will continue to be the case. It will be very interesting to see what happens in February.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NathanA View Post
    There are two ways that VoLTE can be "blocked" on a given device...sometimes only one method or the other is being utilized, and sometimes both are employed together:

    1) It can be blocked on the carrier's side. (Phone asks to make a VoLTE connection, network denies the request after checking the IMEI of the phone making the request.)

    2) It can be blocked on the handset side. (Phone checks the SIM against an internal carrier VoLTE whitelist built into the phone's software, and won't even bother to TRY to make a VoLTE connection if that SIM's carrier isn't in the list.)

    Carriers sometimes work (collude?) with handset manufacturers to make #2 happen, though it's also the default position of many handset manufacturers that if they don't explicitly get a particular handset model certified for VoLTE by a given carrier, they will just leave that carrier out of the internal whitelist built into the firmware.

    T-Mobile and Verizon don't really do #1, which is why you can occasionally run into phone models (ones that DON'T do #2) which manage to make a VoLTE connection on those networks just fine, even if that particular model technically isn't certified to work with VoLTE on their networks.

    AT&T on the other hand absolutely does do #1.

    Except that recently they have taken it even a step farther: they don't just deny a VoLTE connection on their network if the IMEI isn't in their whitelist, but they deny a network connection ALTOGETHER: the network won't let the phone on, period, even for internet data use.

    Now, here's the curious thing: AT&T only seems to be doing this to their *direct* customers. If, however, you are on an AT&T MVNO, they *haven't* (yet?) subjected those MVNO lines to the same treatment of blocking them from the network *completely*. Take your experience with Tracfone for example: even if you didn't get VoLTE, you still got 3G voice and either 3G or 4G data on your G6 Play. But if you had been on AT&T Prepaid or Postpaid, putting the SIM in the G6 Play would have caused your service to have been totally suspended, and the only way to get service back when that happens is to move the SIM back over to a whitelisted phone *and then call AT&T customer service to beg for forgiveness after that*. Moving the SIM back to a whitelisted phone is not enough.

    You didn't experience that on TF. I'm pretty sure nobody with an AT&T SIM is experiencing that on TF. As I said, the MVNOs are being handled differently for the time being.

    That said, whether or not a given AT&T MVNO even does #1 (lets the phone on the network but blocks non-whitelisted phones from making VoLTE calls) seems to vary from MVNO to MVNO! SOME AT&T MVNOs do this. Some do NOT.

    Tracfone (and its sister companies) DOES do this on the AT&T side, and they have been doing it for at LEAST a year, if not much longer. It may take them anywhere between several minutes and several days after you put the SIM into a non-whitelisted phone, but eventually they'll see the IMEI change and actively block VoLTE on the network side.

    On the other hand, I have been on both Boom Blue (R.I.P.) and more recently Red Pocket GSMA, and as far as I can tell, neither one of them ever implemented #1. I have had the RP SIM in a very much not-whitelisted phone for 2.5 months now with no problems related to whitelists, and not only that, but both VoLTE and WiFi Calling have worked just fine and continue to work fine for me in this phone with this SIM.

    So, again: it is just not universally true that all AT&T MVNOs are dealing with this the same way, and as far as I can tell, AT&T thus far (to my great surprise) has not implemented their whitelist enforcement as a top-down thing on the network side. MVNOs are exempt...for now. If an AT&T MVNO (like TF) decides that they want to enforce a whitelist, it seems at some level to be up to the MVNO to do it.

    But of course just because this is the state of things now is no guarantee that this will continue to be the case. It will be very interesting to see what happens in February.
    Just so you know, att and TMobile both marketed hspa as 4g on their devices even though its actually 3g.

    Back when my metropcs line didn't have volte and/or i could turn it off (T-Mobile network) all calls would auto-drop to "4g" while in the call then bounce back up to "lte" once the call completed. So a 4g call is not the same as volte. The only surefire way of knowing its volte is if the indicator brings up "lte" and stays "lte" during a call.

    So using the TracFone 3g/4g indicator still confirms that method #1 is still being actively enforced because the phone is not being allowed to connect to lte - otherwise it would state lte.

    Now for the account closure part, ive heard a few limited reports of it happening on smaller att mvnos, so i threw it in there as a potential outcome.

    However, it's becoming a lot more common to be reading reports of non-whitelisted device on many mvnos, including red pocket and h2o, no longer getting lte on their screens or an lte connection. Especially on r/nocontract.

    This is coming from a few people who reported getting lte as stated on the screen only to see it drop the merely 4g/3g without being able to get "lte" to show back up.

    Though at the same time, im aware several international models dont use the lte icon at all and only give 2g/3g/4g as the network status.

    They only state 3g/4g.

    Of course many of these mvnos csr teams have no clue as to why.

    So im only assuming the mvnos might not be fully aware of the white list enforcement that is actively happening on the network side and locking out lte access to even their customers. So they would state the phone should work, but you only get 3g gsm "4g" hspa.

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    Last edited by jmac32here; 10-05-2021 at 04:21 AM.

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    Correction was edited above now.

    However, i will state a lot of this is currently falling on speculation as well since none of us really knows whats really happening on the backend.

    So we all won't really know until next year.

    Suffice it to say, if you want to be on ATT network - regardless of how you do it - its best to use whitelisted devices so you don't deal with any service interruptions.

    Because if the 4g is hspa and not lte on mvnos, itll mean full service cut off at least until you "upgrade" to a compatible device when they do shut down hspa.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    Just so you know, att and TMobile both marketed hspa as 4g on their devices even though its actually 3g.

    Back when my metropcs line didn't have volte and/or i could turn it off (T-Mobile network) all calls would auto-drop to "4g" while in the call then bounce back up to "lte" once the call completed. So a 4g call is not the same as volte.
    Yes, I know that.

    The non-whitelisted phone that I have been successfully using on AT&T MVNOs with VoLTE and WiFi Calling for the past year+ doesn't use "4G" in the status bar to represent an LTE connection. It uses the three magic letters L, T, and E all stuck together. It's not an AT&T phone and doesn't run AT&T firmware, so it's not bound by AT&T's stupid marketing names for their products. It is very clear when this phone is connected to LTE because it says "LTE", or when it's connected to HSDPA because it says "H" or "H+" (not 3G or 4G or w/e).

    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    So using the TracFone 3g/4g indicator still confirms that method #1 is still being actively enforced because the phone is not being allowed to connect to lte - otherwise it would state lte.
    *sigh* I thought I made it clear in both of my last 2 responses that I know Tracfone employs IMEI whitelists on the AT&T side of its business. This will me my third time in this thread both stating and acknowledging this fact.

    Even so, unless you know how to dig in and properly debug things, it is not possible for you to know conclusively whether the reason you aren't getting VoLTE in a particular situation is because your carrier is blocking it on their side, or because your handset is blocking it on your side. So just because your phone drops down to 3G when you make a call does NOT mean that you "know" for certain that tactic #1 is being employed by the carrier. It COULD just be that you have a phone that employs tactic #2.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    Now for the account closure part, ive heard a few limited reports of it happening on smaller att mvnos, so i threw it in there as a potential outcome.
    I would love to see some citations for this. I have never heard of it and I hang out both here and on /r/nocontract pretty frequently.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    However, it's becoming a lot more common to be reading reports of non-whitelisted device on many mvnos, including red pocket and h2o, no longer getting lte on their screens or an lte connection. Especially on r/nocontract.
    That's not the same thing at all. Sounds like you're talking about people whose phones were not getting an LTE connection at all, but who were still getting a 3G UMTS/HSDPA connection. That had nothing to do with whitelists, either on the phone side or on the carrier side. That was a limited problem that a few select people -- some of whom had AT&T whitelisted phones! -- ran into back in August and early September that seemed to coincide with when a ton of AT&T MVNOs were having regular problems with data constantly getting shut off.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    Of course many of these mvnos csr teams have no clue as to why.
    Right, because it was a carrier issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    So im only assuming the mvnos might not be fully aware of the white list enforcement that is actively happening on the network side and locking out lte access to even their customers. So they would state the phone should work, but you only get 3g gsm "4g" hspa.
    Again, no. Whoever is experiencing that problem is not running into whitelists. The only ways that the IMEI whitelists are being employed by AT&T are to either 1) disable VoLTE but still allow data over either LTE or UMTS, or 2) kill the network connection of the phone entirely, including 3G. AT&T doesn't use IMEI whitelists to kill off all LTE data but still allow 3G data. That's not how this works.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    However, i will state a lot of this is currently falling on speculation as well since none of us really knows whats really happening on the backend.

    So we all won't really know until next year.
    I believe that I have also said that multiple times. We are in agreement here.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    Suffice it to say, if you want to be on ATT network - regardless of how you do it - its best to use whitelisted devices so you don't deal with any service interruptions.
    Sure, that's great advice if you don't want to deal with the possibility of a service interruption. For some of us that can afford a little bit of temporary inconvenience for whatever reason (maybe we're just curious, or whatever), it's a calculated risk. I still have working VoLTE service with an AT&T MVNO on a non-whitelisted device, and though I am working on contingency plans (some that involve different devices, and other that involve not using AT&T), at this point I'm darned curious to see what happens if I stick it out until February and beyond.

    I'm absolutely not recommending that the "average joe" follow my lead. I am, however, a stickler for accuracy & also want to make sure that we aren't conflating a bunch of unrelated things.

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    Account suspension sounds bone-headed dumb to me when T-Mo and VZW are typically available as relief from this. This is why I recommend unlocked phones.

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