Thursday, August 07, 2008

T-Mobile @ Home Experience

About a week and a half ago, I signed up for T-Mobile's @Home phone service. For those of you who don't know what that is, it replaces your current home phone for $10 per month. Here's how it works: Instead of plugging into your phone line, it plugs into your internet connection. It is a voice over IP or VOIP service similar to Vonage, or the phone service offered by your cable company. It was such a good deal (I was paying $30 per month for dial tone and voice mail, now I'm paying $10 per month for dial tone, voice mail, caller ID, and free long distance) that I decided to go for it.

I got my startup kit on Wednesday. It came with a router (plugs into your internet connection and has regular phone jacks as well as internet jacks in the back) and the new Dect 6.0 phones I ordered (these phones don't interfere with wireless networks). It only took two days from order to reciept so I was pretty happy.

The installation directions were simple. First plug the router into your broadband modem or into your existing router. I already had a router so I just plugged it in there. Second, plug your phone into the router. Third, you're done! So, in just a few minutes, I went from boxes to complete setup. Then the trouble started.

I asked T-Mobile to switch my home number to the new phone service. They told me it would switch over at 9:00 AM on Thursday. So I waited. After work on Thursday I got home and found that the line still hadn't activated. I waited some more. On Friday afternoon, I finally called up tech support to see what was going on. I was told that it can take up to 7 days for the phone service to switch over. So why ask me what day and time I want it switched if it can take up to 7 days? Also, you'd think with all of the small print items I had to agree to that it could have been mentioned, but no, I had to call tech support to find out. OK, so I wait.

On Sunday afternoon, the line switched over. I noticed the blue light on my router (which lights when you've got an active phone line) came on and my new phones worked. Woohoo! Everything is good in the world. Well, for a couple of hours anyway.

So, a couple of hours into my new service and the blue light goes off and my phones go dead. Not cool. I unplug the router, plug it back in and everything comes back. OK, just a glitch, no big deal. Well, a few hours later it does it again. By the time I notice it and restart the router, I've got voicemail. Well, at least that's working. I try calling tech support but, after being on hold for about 15 minutes, the phone cuts out in mid-call. I keep hoping the problem will just go away but it doesn't. By Wednesday I'm really frustrated. OK, time to get serious.

Fortunately, I'm a bit of a geek. I fire up the configuration program for the router and start disabling all of the services I'm not using. I cut out the wireless (I'm using my original router for that) and just about everything else except for the phone lines. No good. It still cut out every now and then. However, I did notice that it cut out more when I was using the internet. Hmmmm... So I started to think that maybe my original router was the issue. So I unhooked my original router and hooked everything up to the new router. OK, now nothing works. No internet, no phone, no wireless, nothing. I mess with the settings and finally, after a couple hours of fiddling, I get the internet back. Once that's done, the wireless and phones turn back on. It's Wednesday afternoon and FINALLY everything seems to be working.

Well, it's now Thursday afternoon. As near as I can tell, everything is still working. It looks like the problem was my old router. Couple that with overwhelmed tech support (I'm sure I'm not the only one who had issues) and it made for a very frustrating week. My suggestion to T-Mobile is to set up a better online help system with forums and other collaboration tools to help customers who can't be on hold for 15+ minutes. However, even with all the setup woes, the system now works and seems to work great. The voice quality is good, I love having caller ID, and I spent a couple of hours last night chatting with family in different states. So, while the setup was a headache, I now have more features for less money. Overall, I'm quite happy.

****** UPDATE ********

It's been a couple of weeks and everything is still good. I have had zero disconnections. Everything just works. I don't think about my phone service any more. I don't worry about phone service. I just enjoy the features and the smaller phone bill. It's very nice and I would recommend it to anyone.

In fact, if you are interested in signing up, my T-Mobile representative would love to help you out (this is probably just for the Phoenix, AZ area). She gave me permission to post her contact information here:

Shannon Gohler
Major Account Executive
T-Mobile USA
(C) 480.720.9952
(F) 480.638.2851

Just tell her you got her information from Jeff's blog and she will take good care of you.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info.

My experience with Vonage was somewhat problematic at first too. I am not a geek so I had to call Vonage tech support. I had virtually no wait time but I ended up spending about 2.5 hours with a very helpful young woman who constantly tweaked things on her end (no not that end), changing the bandwidth or whatever until my calls stopped dropping. This was about five months ago and I have not had any problems since then.

One thing I like about Vonage is that when you get a voicemail, it sends you an e-mail with a .wav file which you can listen to on your computer at some other location so you don't have to call in to your vm. Still, at 24.95, it is a bit more expensive than T-Mobile so I might look into changing service.

I am a T-Mobile customer and just moved to the Charlotte metro area. T-Mobile has a very small presence here, having just moved into the area about the same time I did, and I often don't get a signal, especially at home which prompted me to look at Vonage.

Jeff said...

Wow, the voice mail in your email sounds cool! Maybe T-Mobile will pick up that feature. However, for the price, it's hard to complain.

I know what you mean about coverage. T-Mobile doesn't have the best coverage, however, they will show you a map of your street that shows the expected signal strength at your house. THAT is a cool feature. One of the reasons we switched from Verizon was that we got horrible reception at our house. With T-Mobile, I checked our reception before I even signed up.