AT&T’s 3G Shutdown Appears To Be Causing Unintended Outages
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Recently, BestMVNO was contacted by a reader experiencing problems with their AT&T MVNO, Red Pocket Mobile. The problems the reader is having started when AT&T began its 3G network shutdown. For those unaware, the shutdown began last week. AT&T does have a document stating the phones that it has tested and approved for use on its network after the 3G shutdown. However, the same document also states "models listed here are not guaranteed to work on the AT&T network." Confusing to say the least.
This particular reader assures me they have Samsung Galaxy S9+ devices that are on AT&T's tested and approved phone list. However, exact model numbers were not shared with me. Update: BestMVNO has been informed the device being used is model number SM-G965U, which is on the compatibility list. The reader did state that at some point in the past the phones were used with AT&T Prepaid and all features including VoLTE and WiFi calling worked just fine. The individual also noted that they have had Red Pocket for a year, but was never able to get VoLTE or WiFi calling to work as it should. A prerequisite for using AT&T's network after the 3G shutdown is that phones used on the network must support VoLTE on AT&T.
The individual who contacted BestMVNO stated that shortly after the shutdown began, group texts and phone calls stopped working for them. They also stated the wait time for support through Red Pocket's online chat initially showed 1100 minutes, when it's normally 20 minutes or less. After waiting for three hours, the customer did get through to support. Tech support was able to reset something on their end to get the phone calls working again, but mms messages remained a problem. The customer noted that AT&T (or maybe Red Pocket) appeared to have pushed new APNs to their phones to get things partially working. However, the APN push seemed to have removed the Red Pocket APN on the phone and replaced it with a more AT&T specific one. A proper APN setting is needed to tell a phone how to connect and communicate with a cellular network. Without being properly set, a phone may not work at all, or certain features may not work on the network it is supposed to.
This particular customer is not the only Red Pocket Mobile subscriber to be having issues. Just a short while ago, a Reddit user posted that they can no longer make or receive phone calls using a Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. Another Reddit user posted yesterday, that they have been trying for two days to get ahold of Red Pocket support only to be told, "our agents are not available right now. Please leave a message and we'll get back to you."
Red Pocket was quick to respond to the user on Reddit by apologizing for the issue and asking them to reach out for help at [email protected].
Others in the same thread stated that they are using phones listed on AT&T's compatibility list but are still having trouble with their service.
The reasons for the issues seem to be many fold. Some customers are still using phones that aren't compatible with VoLTE on AT&T. Others do have compatible phones that just aren't working. For those with a compatible phone, one Reddit user believes the main issue stems from their phones not getting properly provisioned to work on the network. Outdated phone firmware, and customers moving SIMs from incompatible phones to compatible ones may also be causing problems.
Customers of other AT&T based MVNOs also appear to be having issues. Some due to customers not upgrading their phones in time, while others with compatible phones may be facing the same problems that Red Pocket customers are having. Either way, the shutdown has been a real headache for many customers causing long wait times for customers support. One Reddit user whose mother-in-law is using Airvoice with an incompatible phone faced an extremely long wait time for customer support. The individual was stuck on hold for three hours with Airvoice closing before their call could be answered.
The service disruption issues are even impacting AT&T's own customers that have compatible phones. A Reddit user with an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S20 FE SM-G781U1, a device on AT&T's compatibility list also stopped working for phone calls at around the same time the 3G shutdown began.
Update: There's now a Reddit thread for AT&T's own subscribers that are also having problems due to the shutdown.
A Reddit user in the same thread who appears to work at an AT&T store believes AT&T messed up the 3G shutdown big time. It also impacted one of their customers when it shouldn't have.
Recent web traffic on BestMVNO suggests even more AT&T MVNOs are impacted, most notably H2O Wireless, Straight Talk, and Consumer Cellular. It should be noted H2O Wireless is exclusively an AT&T MVNO, while Straight Talk, which was recently purchased by Verizon has an overwhelming majority of its customers on the Verizon network. Consumer Cellular is an MVNO of both AT&T and T-Mobile. Twitter user @TracfoneGuy tells me a dealer friend has taken many complaints from H2O Wireless customers, including those with high-end devices, whose phones stopped working and VoLTE can't be turned on. However, put a SIM card in from another network and VoLTE works. The dealer also noted long wait times for customer support.
But of course, not everybody with incompatible and compatible phones are having issues. I actually have an incompatible Motorola G4 Plus using Good2Go Mobile as a secondary line for reviews that has yet to experience any problems. If I keep the line going, I'm sure they will come in time.
Whatever the cause for all of the problems may be, there seems to be many, AT&T has certainly messed up its 3G network shutdown. AT&T has been preparing for the shutdown for a long time. However, with what's happening to its customers and its partners' customers, it seems as if the shutdown was planned for just days ago. There was no doubt going to be problems with the shutdown with some customers not upgrading their phones in time. But what should not be a problem is customers using phones on AT&T's compatibility list should not be facing the issues that they are.
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