Three Half-Working Cell Phones in a Rural Area


A reader, Becky, asks..

I recently moved into the country and have limited options for internet and cell service. I’ve been on a Verizon family plan for 5 years, i just upgraded a few months ago to a Galaxy S7 and am on a payment plan. I get a very weak signal at my new house, not even enough to make calls. There are two Towers nearby, AT&T and I’m not sure what the other is.

A family member gave me an old LG straight talk phone which works on Sprint, and I get a great signal but the phone is so old it’s barely functioning.

Straight talk just offered me a free Galaxy On5, which is on T-Mobile. I received the phone and it appeared to get a great signal so I called them and had my number transferred from my older phone, which took about 24 hours. When it was finally active I noticed I had no data capabilities although I could make calls. So I went into the settings and noticed it was connected to At&T. I searched for networks and chose T-Mobile but the signal was extremely weak. (I’ve seen mentioned on this site the issue with their different towers).

So my question is, if I am connecting to At&T and getting voice, is there a way to get data as well? Is there a way to use my Verizon Galaxy S7 with a pre-paid service on Sprint or At&t? I also have an inactive at&t net10 sim if that makes a difference

Any tips? I have 3 half working phones and it’s making me crazy. I need one to be fully functioning.

Hi Becky,
Wow. You have a lot going. Let’s see what we can do to get you service.

First, If you internet with Wi-Fi at home, you can enable HD Voice on your S7 which will allow you to make and receive calls at home or any location that you receive Wi-Fi. Your other options are to look into a Verizon network extender or signal booster for use at home.

If you just moved to a rural area. Your network choices may be limited. Sounds like Verizon doesn’t have great coverage. Based on what you told me it seems both AT&T and Sprint have coverage but not Verizon or T-Mobile. There may also be a regional cellular carrier with coverage. You should ask neighbors and other locals what service which service they are using. Also you need to be careful using prepaid wireless services in rural areas. Sometimes they don’t work.

If you can’t use data on your Straight Talk phone using T-Mobile’s network you may need to set the APN in the settings on your phone. Look at the APN settings, and make sure the APN is wap.tracfone. If you don’t know how to set the APN, this might help. Setting the Straight Talk Wireless’ wap.tracfone APN on your Google Nexus 5 with Android 5 (Lollipop). The steps won’t be an exact match but you should be able to figure it out.

Unfortunately, if your T-Mobile phone is connecting to the AT&T network, it probably means that there isn’t decent T-Mobile service in your area and T-Mobile has an agreement with AT&T to carry T-Mobile traffic in your area. Unfortunately, the agreement doesn’t extend to T-Mobile prepaid or other Prepaid services like ST that use the T-Mobile network and in that case, you simply won’t be able to use data unless you are in an area where you connect to the T-Mobile network.

Now, if you are connecting to the AT&T network, then there is a good chance that AT&T works well in the area and you may be able to switch to AT&T or even a prepaid service that uses the AT&T network. Again, make sure to ask around to make sure other people are using AT&T in your area.

As far as a phone goes, that Galaxy S7 is the best of three phones you have. The Verizon model is partially compatible with the AT&T network and the phone is unlocked so it should be possible to use it on the AT&T network. If you pay off the phone you can consider using it.

If you decide that your best option for service in your area is Sprint, getting set up is a little more complicated. You may be able to use your S7 as well. You may be able to use Sprint prepaid or Straight Talk’s sprint network if the phone is eligible and you can get a valid Sprint SIM. If you want to use Sprint’s network let me know and I’ll expand on this answer.

I hope this helps, let me know if you have more questions and what you decide to do.

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