T-Mobile Ends Roaming Near My House, Leaves Me With No Service, Shrugs

Matt is a longtime T-Mobile customer. He’s been with them for about seven years, and never really had any problems. Then he spent the Fourth of July weekend at his second home in Michigan, and noticed that he had no phone reception. No bars. Nothing. Normally the T-Mobile phones would switch over and roam on the AT&T network while in the country. He learned that the companies’ roaming agreement in parts of the Midwest ended earlier this year, and that he wouldn’t have any coverage at his second home. Well, okay, that’s a valid reason to get out of his contract, isn’t it? Only if he could get T-Mobile to get back to him.

I have had T-mobile service for approx 7 years and I have 4 phones with them. (Family plan) I live in Chicago and have a second house in SouthWestern Michigan. When I am there at least twice a month it switches to AT&T roaming and EDGE internet speed. My exact address will be included on one of the attachments to this letter.

When I was there for the 4th of July Holiday I noticed none of the phones worked. It showed AT&T network but would not register. I had no phone service at all.

I have contacted T-mobile numerous times about this issue. I am attaching the names and dates of the people I have talked to along with a copy of a text customer support. I have had a tech support ticket pulled and I am alway promised that someone will contact me but no one ever does.

What I did find out is that it appears the roaming agreement between AT&Tand T-mobile expired and there is no plans for renewal in the near future. If you go on T-mobiles website it shows that my area is supposed to be covered by a roaming partner. No one can answer me if there will be upgrades any time soon that will allow me to use my phones.

As you can see I have tried numerous times to get a straight answer and while the people I have talked to have been nice I am still left without service. What are my options? Who can I contact for a straight answer? And since they are no longer providing service in area I frequent a lot is that a breach of my contract?

Well, yes. That seems very unfair. Plus, weren’t AT&T and T-Mobile supposed to have a super-special roaming relationship after their attempted merger failed?

We sent Matt’s e-mail and his other documentation over to T-Mobile’s PR department, and they got him in touch with executive customer service right away. He was let out of his contract. Here’s the statement TMo sent us:

Unfortunately T-Mobile cannot guarantee coverage everywhere. We have been in contact with the customer and explained the situation. As a courtesy, T-Mobile has agreed to waive the early termination fee, if the customer’s phones are returned undamaged. The customer understands and is satisfied with the final solution.

Coverage changes. We get that. But when a customer needs to be let out of his contract, someone should maybe give him a call back without getting our site involved. We have other companies to complain about, too, you know.


Edit Your Comment

  1. bnceo says:

    It’s stuff like this that makes me avoid contracts like the plague and buy all my devices full price. The freedom is just too valuable in case a carrier decides to do something that affects your usage.

    • seth_lerman says:

      If being able to bail early is what you are looking for wouldn’t you be better off still getting the subsidized phone and putting the difference (vs. full price) in the bank? Then if you decide to jump ship if you have the money already there to pay the ETF. An ETF that shrinks each month meaning if you decide to bail after 13 months you have more money in your pocket than you would buying the phone outright and having no contract.

      • Chmeeee says:

        Exactly. I’d much rather have a 20% chance of getting stuck with an ETF than a 100% chance of paying full price for a phone, especially since the ETF is less than the subsidy on the phone.

      • Geekybiker says:

        Only if you insist on paying the post-paid price. If you get on a pre-paid carrier, over even tmobile’s own non-subsidy plans you save money by buying your phone up front even if you don’t need to switch. Then if you decide you don’t need a phone every 2 years you start saving the big bucks.

  2. AccidentalLocal says:

    I am confused to why the OP is claiming that T-Mo and ATT ended their roaming agreement in Michigan. I am a resident of SW Michigan and a T-Mo customer. I live in an area where 4G is readily available. However, I often visit lakeshore or rural areas where my phone changes to ATT, I can still make calls and use data on the the EDGE network and have never been charged extra.

  3. chiieddy says:

    Why does he need to be let out of his contract? The phone still works at his primary residence and not at his second, vacation, home. This is not is not a material change to the contract terms or his service level. T-mobile doesn’t have any responsibility to make your phone service available at a secondary address. First world problem.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Nearly everything posted on this site is a first-world problem. If that’s your complaint, then why on earth are you still here?

    • elangomatt says:

      It shouldn’t matter if it is a secondary address. The fact of the matter is that the service level has changed in such a way that he can no longer use the phone in a location that worked previously because of a change that t-mobile made to their network. If the change had been outside of t-mobile’s control then I don’t think he should be let out of the contract for free, but t-mobile made a conscious decision to stop coverage in an area and that adversely affects customers. They need to be held responsible for their actions.

      • lyontaymer30 says:

        The fact that he was roaming shows that they never promised coverage in that area to begin with. Think about that, how can they promise service in an area they don’t have service. Roaming service is a courtesy.

        • elangomatt says:

          He had service before due to the roaming contract that t-mobile had in place, t-mobile has stopped that contract so why shouldn’t the OP be able to get out of his contract too. It doesn’t matter who provided the service, the fact is that because of a change t-mobile made, he is no longer getting the same level of service he had before.

          • JJFIII says:

            You are assuming facts NOT in evidence. TMobile was NEVER the provider of the roaming. If ATT closed shop tomorrow there is NOTHING that TMobile would be required to do. The customer used a third party service on his TMobile device. Based on this convoluted logic, if a person EVER had service in one place, then suddenly there was no more service in another that they MAY possibly ever go, you consider that a material change of contract. TMobile did a nice customer thing, but legally had zero obligation to do so. This is the entitle consumer mentality that leads to companies having onerous contracts for REAL issues.

          • Nathan says:

            Except T-Mobile never promised him service; that’s not what the contract is about. The contract was for him to maintain a monthly account with T-Mobile, and in return they would provide a discount on the equipment. The contract never promises any level of service, and T-Mobile is within their right to charge the customer the early termination fee – which is based on the discount provided on the equipment, not on the lost fees T-Mobile would earn throughout the remaining contract.

          • lyontaymer30 says:

            “It doesn’t matter who provided the service, the fact is that because of a change t-mobile made, he is no longer getting the same level of service he had before.”

            It does matter who provides the service because the service is provided by att. and if att no longer provides the service, how is it a contract change with tmobile? the contract with tmobile for tmobile service, not roaming, not att service, etc. and I’m pretty sure all of this is outlined in heavy detail in the contract. tmobile waiving the etf was nice of them to do, but it wasn’t something they had to do.

            • elangomatt says:

              I don’t think it matters who actually provides the service in this case. Here is how I see it.

              The OP used to be able to get roaming service at 2nd home.
              T-Mobile and AT&T had a roaming agreement that has since expired.
              T-Mobile chooses not to renew roaming agreement.
              Because of a decision made by t-mobile (not to renew the roaming agreement) the OP no longer gets the same level of service.

              T-Mobile should let the OP out of the contract for free since his level of service changed because of something that T-Mobile changed.

      • dl_crash says:

        By that rational they shouldn’t be able to use any towers or services added after the contract start date, right?

  4. deathbecomesme says:

    “returned undamaged” could mean a lot of things. A phone that gets used a lot is bound to have scratches and dings. I hope they just mean that the phones are in working order or else this can be their loophole to escape through. Wish the op luck

  5. dicobalt says:

    I want to feel bad for him but that’s what you get when you sign a contract.

  6. hymie! says:

    Unfortunately T-Mobile cannot guarantee coverage everywhere.

    While this is true, they should recognize the difference between “cannot guarantee coverage” and “no longer providing coverage”.

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      Roaming is different, it’s not the same as regular coverage. That’s what they’re saying, that area was never under their actual coverage, so technically they never did provide coverage att did.

  7. Captain Spock says:

    I also have a second home in Southwest Michigan (I live in chicago!) in St. Joseph. My Verizon phone seems to work OK. I will NOT Be switching to T-Mobile obviously now.

    • Captain Spock says:

      and before you don’t feel sorry for me, this is a Family home that has been with us for a Generation, I am still as poor as a typical 99%er

  8. CrazyEyed says:

    Can’t say I feel bad for this guy. Not all cell companies provide equal coverage in the city you reside permanantly. Considering he knew T-Mobile was roaming at his vacation residence, there’s not a reasonable expectation of coverage there to begin with.

  9. lvdave says:

    THERE you have the number ONE reason why you DO, NOT. EVER. DO. cellular phone contracts.. You can get excellent service from vendors like VirginMobile, Cricket, etc. and if all the sudden your phone doesn’t work where it used to or the carrier has some other screwball rule change, you’re not stuck with a large ETF to pay to get out of something you never should have gotten into.. You buy another phone on a prepaid carrier that DOES work where you want, and sell/give away/whatever, the phone on the failing carrier. Even smartphones are dirt-cheap on these prepaid carriers, especially if you buy them used on eBay.. Have done THAT very thing several times with VirginMobile… Last LG Optimus was under $50.. Perfectly good phone, and plenty “smart” enough for what I want…

  10. Press1forDialTone says:

    This story is total proof what having multiple phone companies is a
    BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD idea. A heavy oversight properly
    regulated private monopoly like AT&T/Bell System/Western Electric
    used to be gave us much better phone service than the mess we have
    now where you can barely understand the person you are talking to.
    If we had just forced AT&T to innovate to move things along, we would
    probably be right where we are now technologically with vastly better
    wired/wireless phone service and vastly fewer hassles.

  11. jsibelius says:

    I think we’re being overly simplistic here. AT&T provided the roaming and if AT&T pulled out of the area, there is nothing T-Mobile should be responsible for. However, since T-Mobile previously had a contract in place that provided for access to AT&T’s network, T-Mobile is now responsible for the fact that that access is no longer there. AT&T didn’t move. T-Mobile did. There’s certainly enough there that court might certainly interpret that as a material breach of contract.

    I’m glad the customer is satisfied with the outcome. I wouldn’t be, though. I think he should not have to return the phones. But if doing so means less hassle from the company, it’s probably the wisest course of action. You probably could fight it out in small claims, but why (if you don’t have to)?

    • John_L says:

      Read T-Mobile’s Terms & Conditions…. #1, unless you opt out of arbitration (which virtually no one does) within 30 days of starting service with T-Mobile, you can’t take them to court, you’ve agreed (via Terms & Conditions) that you won’t take them to court. #2, Terms and Conditions state you coverage can change at any time as well, so you’re off on both points there.

  12. Such an Interesting Monster says:

    Why exactly couldn’t Matt use wifi calling? I mean, it’s one of T-Mobile’s unique and useful features if you live or work in a fringe area.

    • John_L says:

      First off, not everyone has wifi calling capabilities, the article doesn’t state the type of phones he has, maybe he’s got some cheap five year old Nokia flip phone or something like that. Secondly, this is this guy’s secondary home, so maintaining internet there might be expensive considering he’s not spending the vast majority of his time there.

  13. gretchen2 says:

    I have had the same experience, except I no longer have service in my HOME! And no service within a mile of my home. Zero. I have had t-mobile for 4 years. They did something with their towers. I would call and they would say they would check the towers and get back with me. They never would call back. I would have to call back and speak with a brand new person and go over it all over again. This went on for six weeks. i was about to blow my top. They told me I would have to pay to get out of the contract even though I can no longer use my phone in my home…no incoming calls, no outgoing calls. My neighbor who has T-mobile has the same problem. What can I do ? This is highway robbery. They want me to continue to pay for their non-service. That is like an electric company cutting their electrical wires to my house and then they continue to charge me for electricity they cannot provide. Anyway, finall I got to a T-mobile person that admitted that the service was not good in my area! But, I would still have to pay to get out of the contract. Is this crazy or what?

    • John_L says:

      If you read one of my other posts in this comment section I mentioned how the guy was lucky to get out of the contract and stated it was probably because this site contacted t-mobile and that’s why the guy got out of the contract. Try bringing in other agencies (better business bureau, this website, local news “action” line, etc) in and they’ll fold and let you out.

  14. Big M says:

    If I go to the T-mobile website and look at coverage for voice, it shows a map showing levels of of T-mobile coverage (Excellent to satisfactory), ‘Service Partner’ areas, and areas of ‘No Service’. The fine print of the map does indicate that “Maps approximate anticipated coverage outdoors, based on a variety of factors, and do not guarantee service availability.” This would seem to mean that even the T-mobile service areas are NOT guaranteed. Verizon’s coverage page indicates something similar. AT&T’s page indicates the map is an approximation of the coverage. I would speculate that all phone providers have these caveats for their claimed coverage areas.

  15. John_L says:

    I’m surprised they let him out of contract, generally, loss of roaming coverage isn’t a reason T-Mobile will let someone out. Probably because he went through this site is the reason he was let out of contract. As a customer service rep, there is no path to resolution for that problem other than to say “sorry” to the customer which is why he got the “well call you back” run around.

  16. Sword_Chucks says:

    This sucks, a lot. The Navy just moved me to an area where Tmobile doesn’t provide service. I understand that, but ATT provides full service. Tmobile won’t let me cancel without ETF because of the same reason. (luckily he did get ETF waived). After asking about so many different options, we determined the easiest way would be to put our phones on hold for the next 8 months, but only 3 months at a time, and pickup the go phone plan from ATT, and then I realized we had to SIM unlock our phones. Finally, after a week of being here, we can use our phones.

  17. sean says:

    Just use T-Mobile’s awesome wi-fi calling. I have little coverage near my house so I make all my calls over my wi-fi connection. It’s one of the main reasons I went with them.