Earlier this month, I switched from T-Mobile to Boom! Mobile, a Verizon MVNO, because T-Mobile coverage around my office was crap. Unfortunately, Boom! Mobile isn’t quite working out for me either. Verizon is running a double data deal on prepaid plans, so I’m hopping on the merry-go-round to them now!
My office is in Tyson’s Corner, VA which is totally full of office buildings, with more being built all the time. There’s some residential stuff here too along with lots of shopping, but loads of people commute here for work, and all their phones are all trying to use the same towers.
When I started my job, I found that on T-Mobile, certain parts of the office would totally kill my signal, and even when I did get a signal, the phone would struggle to maintain a decent data connection.
I could have just lived with this and used my work’s wifi to cover the gaps, since T-Mobile is the best carrier at supporting wifi calling on unlocked devices. But, I keep my personal phone off my work’s wifi because there’s a FireEye network sniffer. I don’t completely refrain from doing personal stuff on my work PC but I want to have my phone totally separate. Texting my wife in Hangouts, and messing around on Oppo, among other things, I do only on my personal phone.
My work phone is on a regular post-paid Verizon plan, and it works totally fine in the building. I also put it on the company wifi because it’s a company phone. I asked around and folks with AT&T also struggle with the coverage here, and Sprint is apparently ok here but often crap in general. So I decided to go with Boom! Mobile because they’re the only Verizon MVNO that supports VoLTE calls for simultaneous voice & data, plus HD voice quality when calling to other phones on the Verizon network.
The only problem is, being a Verizon MVNO, Boom! Mobile customers get lower data priority than regular Verizon customers, “in times of network congestion.” I didn’t think this would be a huge issue, but turns out it is. The network around my office is congested all the time I’m here. Especially when I’m on my way home and I attempt to use my drive home talking on the phone with people. Everybody gets in their cars to sit in traffic and slowly crawl home, and they try to use their phones.
I’m frequently having calls drop down to CDMA if they start anywhere in the vicinity of my office. So like yesterday, I texted wife I was heading out, and then she called me while I was in the car but still in Tyson’s Corner, and the call went CDMA right away, with no background data updating the traffic info in Google Maps.
Even during other random times of day, VoLTE is spotty at best. There are times where my data just crawls even though the signal strength is 2 or 3 bars, so it’s likely that my data is being deprioritized.
So it’s like, ok I need to step outside to get away from my desk to make a personal call to some furniture company to get a replacement part for something that was damaged in shipping, I go to look up the info in an email, but my phone’s offline unless I hop on the wifi.
I went round and round with Boom! Mobile customer service, who, to their credit, were great, especially compared to what I experienced from TracFone owned MVNOs like Straight Talk and Total Wireless, but they couldn’t do anything for me. There’s nothing wrong with the account or how it’s provisioned for VoLTE. Everything works fine with VoLTE when I’m not around my office. As far as I can tell, it’s just that because I’m lower priority data, it can’t successfully do VoLTE in congestion, and falls back to CDMA.
Today, I saw that Verizon is running a double data deal on prepaid plans. This actually makes their plan a little better than the deal I got with Boom!. I paid $50/month for 10 GB of data for myself, and $40 for 5 GB for my wife. But with Verizon giving a multi-line discount on prepaid plans, I could get 14 GB for myself for $50/month, and 6 GB for my wife for $30/month.
Now comes the finger crossing. I did a chat with Verizon customer service, and they said that Verizon prepaid customers still get lower priority data than postpaid. What they didn’t say, but I know is generally the case, is that Verizon prepaid customers still get higher priority than Verizon MVNO customers. So I’m *hoping* this puts me high up enough the priority spectrum that I can make a damn VoLTE call and have my background data work.
On another Verizon note, they suck at supporting unlocked devices for wifi calling. They claim they “have no control” over whether a phone supports wifi calling, but what they’re not saying is that they only let certain unlocked phones access wifi calling, even if wifi is enabled on your account.
My unlocked Galaxy S7 Edge, for example, did wifi calling all fine and dandy on T-Mobile, but no dice on Verizon, whether it’s postpaid, prepaid or MVNO. BUT if you use an unlocked iPhone or Pixel, you can use Verizon wifi calling just fine on prepaid or postpaid. There’s nothing special about how iPhones and Pixels do wifi calling, it’s just Verizon has agreements in place with Apple and Google to support wifi calling for their unlocked devices, and doesn’t want to let other phones access it, for no particularly good reason.
Not that their customer service people will tell you this, of course. The company line is “sorry, not all unlocked devices support wifi calling on our network,” which is technically true, but the reason is Verizon doesn’t want them to.
Wifi calling isn’t super important to me because the Verizon signal works just fine at my house, and at work I’m not going to be using the work wifi on my personal phone anyway. But if this Verizon prepaid plan works for me to consistently make VoLTE calls in/around my office, I may find myself gravitating towards a Pixel in order to get wifi calling, just in case.
Anyway, we’ll see how well VoLTE cooperates once my new SIM cards arrive in the mail and I switch our service over. If VoLTE around my office still doesn't work consistently, I'll (shudder) maybe have to consider a post-paid plan. Ugh.