At the end of September Net10 Wireless and Straight Talk started selling 4G LTE AT&T network SIMs for their Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) customers. I use Net10 Wireless with my iPhone 5 and I get 4G data, but its HSPA, not LTE. HSPA is fast but I have long wanted all the 4G LTE goodness for my iPhone 5.
I could have just paid about $100 a month for AT&T 4G LTE. I was also really tempted to switch to AT&T Pay N Go. Pay N Go added 4G LTE support earlier in 2013, but it was $60 or $65 a month. But I never got around to switching. I didn’t want to spend the extra money.
But now with Net10 Wireless and Straight Talk both offering 4G LTE, I wanted to get on board! So far, I switched over my Net10 account over to 4G LTE, I will do my Straight Talk account soon. The experience should be very similar, as both Net10 Wireless and Straight Talk are owned by the same company. I’ll do a write up for Straight Talk in the near future.
Update your old Net10 SIM to a Net10 4G LTE AT&T Compatible Micro SIM.
You need a new SIM to use the 4G LTE network. I ordered two 4G LTE AT&T Compatible Micro SIMs from the Net10 Wireless web site. They charged me $9.99 plus tax. They included 3 day shipping for free. With sales tax, my order was $21.25. I see today, they are listed for $6.99. I feel cheated. After all the Net10 customers I have helped. 🙂
My SIMs were delivered in 3 days via Fed Ex Home Delivery. FedEx required a signature, even though I have a Fed Ex signature waiver on file ,they would not leave the package at the door.
I checked some local stores for Net10 4G LTE ATT Compatible SIMs . KMart only had the BYOP 3 pack of non LTE SIMs on sale for $9.99 . My local Radio Shack had a display for Net10 4G SIMs but none in stock. The sales clerk claimed they haven’t received any Net10 SIMs in a long time.
Measure Your Data Speeds Before and After
You don’t have to do this. But I run smartphonematters.com and wanted write about how much faster my iPhone 5 would be with 4G LTE. I just wanted a benchmark, nothing overly scientific here. I installed Speedtest.net Mobile Speed Test By Ookla from the App Store.
I measured my 4G HSPA service speeds with SpeedTest before upgrading. I measured my 4G LTE service speeds with SpeedTest after upgrading. I live in a suburb west of Boston, I ran tests at my house and my local library. The Speed Test app keeps a history of your test results. I also took some iPhone screen shots too.
We will look at the results a little later.
Prepare Your SIM
The Net10 4G LTE ATT Compatible Micro SIM is will not fit in your iPhone 5. Your iPhone 5 requires a nano SIM.
I removed the SIM from the blue card. Save the blue card you will need it later.
I cut the Net10 micro SIM to a nano SIM with a SIM cutter. I sanded the top and edges of the SIM with a small piece of sandpaper. The micro SIM is little thicker than an nano SIM, so I needed to make it fit in my iPhone 5. Just a few strokes on the top did the trick.
You can cut your SIM with a pair of scissors or a razor blade. I bought a SIM cutter on Amazon a while back. The kit even included the sandpaper.
After cutting the SIM, I made sure it fit in my iPhone 5’s SIM tray and inserted it into the phone. The phone recoginized the SIM and the status bar showed No Service as the SIM has not been activated yet.
Transferring Your Net10 Service from Your Old SIM to the New 4G LTE SIM
Once I was ready to transfer my service, I went to the Net10 Wireless website and logged into my account. There is an option in the portal to transfer your existing phone or SIMs service to a new phone or SIM. I chose that option and entered my SIMs serial number which is found on the blue card.
After transferring my service to the new SIM, I was assigned new values for my Data APN and MMS settings.
The process is pretty straight forward. One thing I found out several days later was that my Net10 Auto-Refill was cancelled when I moved my existing service to the new SIM. So if you rely on Auto-Refill to make sure sign up again so your bill is paid every month.
Using My New NET 10 4G LTE ATT Compatible SIM
After transferring my service, my iPhone 5 recognized the SIM, and the status bar showed Home and 4G. The service was spotty though. The status would change from Searching to No Service. I followed the instructions from the web site to restart my phone. My voice service was working immediately. As I mentioned in the previous section I was assigned the tfdata APN. I wanted to get data working as soon as possible, so I installed the Net10 tfdata APN profile. It didn’t work. I tried the other two profiles, they didn’t work. I restarted my iPhone. I kept trying profiles. I finally did a Reset Network Settings. Eventually after 5 or 10 minutes data was working.
I noticed that my status bar was showing 4G and not LTE. Not good. I ran a speed test. It wasn’t any faster. I wanted my LTE! Was it the wrong SIM card? Maybe I don’t get 4G LTE at my house? Maybe its a Net10 problem?
Calling Net10 Support
I looked at the my SIM card packaging and no where did it say 4G LTE. I wondered if in fact these were 4G LTE SIMs or old ones. I figured I’d call Net10 support to verify if they had sent me the correct SIM. After navigating the voice prompts, I was very quickly connected to a Service Representative. I told her I transferred my service to the new SIM, and asked if she could verify that my SIM did in fact support 4G LTE. They should be able to check this by the SIM serial number. She wasn’t able to help me. She escalated my call, again answered immediately. I asked my question again, and this rep told me that Net10 does not support 4G LTE SIMs. I told her to check the web site because they actually sell them. After a short time on hold, she confirmed that they do in fact sell 4G LTE SIMs but maybe my phone doesn’t support LTE, there may not be LTE in my area, or I may have used up 2.5 GB of high speed data and be throttled to 2G. She would not let me speak to her supervisor. She couldn’t tell me if my SIM was a 4G LTE SIM. I thanked her and ended the call.
I was impressed that I was connected immediately with no wait time. Also, the reps were clearly in India, but all spoke clearly and understandably. The issue is they just simply seem to be trained or have access to the appropriate support material. I found the interaction amusing. My expectations were low.
Where Is My LTE?
I figured I was going to need to drive around to some different areas to see if my iPhone would get LTE service. I put my phone on my desk and went back to work. About 10 minutes later, I looked at my iPhone and the status bar showed … LTE!
The whole process was maybe 30 to 45 minutes, if that. Not bad.
Speed Test Results
I know, all you really want to know is LTE faster? Yes. Maybe not as fast as I thought. The speeds I measured really varied. Here are some results.
Here are three test results using my old 4G SIM. the first was measured in my home office in the basement, the second in my backyards, the third in my front yard. These was a big difference between inside and outside my home.
The next two results were in my home office after switching to the new 4G LTE SIM. Not impressive. The phone was still showing 4G at this point.
The next result was outside my house after upgrading to LTE. Looks to be 2.7 times faster. Pretty cool!
This result was from my morning walk in my town. Not quite as good.
This result was from Cambridge MA, near MIT, pretty poor. The phone showed LTE
Over all, I am pretty happy with the upgrade. This is almost 4 times faster than my previous 4G service. It cost my $9.99 plus Tax for the SIM and may an hour or so of my time. Totally worth it, I recommend it for iPhone 5 users!