T-Mobile Test Drive, try out T-Mobile’s network on them

T-Mobile has been busy building out their network and extending coverage. For many boaters it may be the best compromise of coverage and cost-effectiveness. But, how do you know if their coverage is good enough where you plan to use it? T-Mobile hopes you will take them up on their offer and try 30gb of data and a hot-spot to find out.

Here’s the quick summary. If you visit T-Mobile’s Test Drive site and give them your name, phone number, email address and shipping address they will send you a mobile hot-spot (the 600mhz capable Coolpad Surf) and SIM card with 30 days or 30gb of service (whichever comes first). That’s it, no credit card is needed, you don’t have to cancel at the end of the trial or anything else obnoxious.

I used to have T-Mobile service when I spent most of my time in big cities. I always found their service very good in major population centers — even places where AT&T and Verizon’s networks were showing signs of congestion — but I also encountered very spotty coverage in less heavily populated areas.

Recently, T-Mobile has spent billions of dollars buying additional wireless spectrum and deploying network resources to cover these areas. A lot of the spectrum T-Mobile acquired is in the 600mhz range. This lower frequency, longer wave length spectrum (which T-Mobile calls Extended Reach LTE) allows T-Mobile to operate at a lower frequency than existing cellular networks. These longer waves will propagate further and penetrate buildings better than higher frequency, shorter wave lengths.

So, this network expansion leads to a question for me, and I suspect many others. Is T-Mobile’s network as good as Verizon and AT&T’s? Especially where I want to use it? When I switched away three plus years ago the answer was a resounding NO. But that was before 600mhz and major network investment.

With the trial you can answer that question for yourself and do so without incurring any expense. T-Mobile says that to be eligible you can’t have been a customer within the last six months and trials are limited to once per six month period.

I’ve done a little testing of my own and so far I’m seeing fine results, but I’m also currently in Fort Myers, FL where I’ve found all the carriers to have good coverage. If you decide to give it a try please feel free to post your results in the comments below.

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of Panbo.com, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, 100-ton USCG master.

12 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Very interesting! I recently noticed that T-Mobile has extended their coverage map to show 4G LTE for most of the Maine coast and islands. I am quite dubious — due to prior T-Mobile coverage map bs — but I just signed up for the free 30 day test and highly encourage other Mainers to do the same.


    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Ahem… After my test sign up seemed to go fine — confirming email included — I got another email saying that a phone call was required. That went OK too except that the customer service person could find no trace of my original order and had to input all the contact info again. They say the test router will ship to me UPS express on 9/10. We’ll see πŸ˜‰

      Note that the T-Mobile guy said that they’d been getting lots of calls like mine this morning, and I also learned during the web sign-up process that an email address associated with a prior T-Mobile account will not work (so I used another email, though my name and address remain the same).

  2. Colin A says:

    Switched to T-mobile back in 2014 due to the high price of Verizon. It was decent from the go but has improved over the years. There are still a few camping spots and one family members house(in the middle of nowhere) that have issues. I have had good luck along most of the East coast. Recently I noticed my wifes phone would sometimes have signal where I did not and hers had better speeds as well. It seems my almost 3 year old phone is not equipped with 600mhz, while hers is so I’m guessing that’s the issue.
    On a side note I mentioned it here before but I have once managed to get a signal off Cape Cod where Verizon did not reach which I found funny.
    To Ben, I haven’t been to Maine in about a year but I have had good service staying in the following spots, Camden, Bath, Portland, Ellsworth, Rockland and Southwest harbor. It did get flakey in parts of Washington county and there is at least one dead spot on 95 south of Bangor.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Almost funny: While setting up the T-Mobile test kit was really easy, there was zero signal available at my house, no internet data whatsoever.

      I’ve learned now that you have to zoom in tight on the coverage map to see the nuance, but my area is supposed to have 4G LTE Partner service without 600mhz, T-Mobile 4G LTE “fair signal” with 600. Neither is true around much of my neighborhood, but I did get connected with some decent speed tests — like 14 Mbps down, 5 up, 200 ms ping — fairly close by but about 100 feet up the side of Mt Battie in the woods to my northeast. On the coverage map that’s TMobile 4G “good signal” territory, which there is very little of anywhere in midcoast Maine (if you zoom in).

      I’m going to do lots more testing around Camden and beyond, and I’m really impressed that T-Mobile has made it so easy, but so far the impressively detailed coverage map seems exaggerated.

      • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

        Sigh… a long T-Mobile-testing bike ride around Camden got the same results. Where the zoomed-in coverage map shows Partner LTE, there is no service. Where the zoomed-in coverage map shows 600mhz extended T-Mobile LTE, there is no service. The test unit only connects in the various patches where the zoomed-in coverage map shows regular T-Mobile service.

        I’d like to think that this is peculiar to Camden, which has lots of topography, but if you zoom in most anywhere east of here along the coast you’ll find it was only pink 4G LTE because of partners or 600mhz. Is anyone else seeing results like this?

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’ve got some great apps for analyzing cell or WiFi connectivity — like Sensorly and Network Signal Info — but testing the T-Mobile Coolpad is a challenge. I need an app that can log, and preferably map, the actual internet connection instead of the WiFi connection between the Coolpad and my Android phone or iPad. Any ideas?

  4. says:

    WiFi is always promoted using β€˜theoretical’ speeds and by this standard 802.11ac is capable of 1300 megabits per second (Mbps) which is the equivalent of 162.5 megabytes per second (MBps). This is 3x faster than the typical 450Mbps speed attributed to 802.11n.

    The problem is these speeds are garbage. In the real world no-one ever gets close to theoretical speeds and the fastest 802.11ac real world speeds recorded in testing are around 720Mbps (90MBps). By contrast 802.11n tops out at about 240Mbps (30MBps) so the 3x estimate is still true, just much lower.

  5. Colin A says:

    As an update from someone on T-mobile for a while. I have started noticing better reception here in CT, both camping, and on the boat in the CT river and along LI sound. But with this seems to be some bandwidth issues. I have been running speed test in the same spots and have found lots of spots the speeds have been cut in half during peak times. The biggest change was actually at my office where it actually dropped under 1 mbps for a few weeks, from around 19. It’s now back up to around 5 mbps, and most other spots are still in the 15-60 mbps range. But my guess is over the past year or so they are seeing an increase in network volume, causing some issues.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I meant to add that after much more T-Mobile testing, the same poor results I got in Camden (comment above) apply to many areas of Maine: “Where the zoomed-in coverage map shows Partner LTE, there is no service. Where the zoomed-in coverage map shows 600mhz extended T-Mobile LTE, there is no service. The test unit only connects in the various patches where the zoomed-in coverage map shows regular T-Mobile service.”

    I admire T-Mobile for letting users do thorough testing for free, but, dang, their service here is quite poor, and their coverage map is quite wrong. And apparently the FCC uncovered false coverage claims by several cell companies, but did not penalize them:


  7. Michael says:

    i used the t-mobile hotspot test drive, (i ordered 3 more off of ebay) keep going strong for another 3 months….. but switched to their service and got rid of FRONTIER, I HAD FOR 15 YEARS T-mobile is so far the best provider speed wise in the area i live.. i live clear out in the middle of no where (43917) for people that want to see the small area.. and there are no towers close by, but looking at the above image from speedtest, i get the same results.. compared to SPRINT-VERIZON t-mobile HAS won me over for a customer… thank you t-mobile, atleast they won’t cut you off if you hit the cap, 3g but thats still better then the rest of the carriers at 2g…

  1. October 14, 2019

    […] with a Weego battery brick and using a stubby emergency VHF antenna — and my about-to-expire T-Mobile Test Drive. The latter was a great disappointment, as I just reported in the comments to that entry, but the […]

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